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Although technology has changed election
campaigns dramatically, the average voter still wants to be heard and
respected, Obama campaign digital director Teddy Goff told a University
of Delaware National Agenda speaker series audience.
1:20 p.m., Nov. 3, 2014--Teddy Goff, who directed President Barack
Obama’s 2008 and 2012 digital campaigns, believes that while technology
has radically changed the way campaigns are conducted, the average voter
still wants to be listened to and respected.
Goff elaborated on the nature of political campaigns in the digital age during a University of Delaware National Agenda speaker series talk given Wednesday evening, Oct. 29, in Mitchell Hall.
During the 2012 campaign, the Yale University alumnus managed a
250-person team responsible for social media, email, web, online
advertising, design and video.
Digital communications had come a long way since Obama’s 2008
campaign that “is now seen as the first social media campaign,” Goff
The platforms for social media and mobile communications that most
people are familiar with today were still in their infancy in February
2007 when Obama, a U.S. senator from Illinois, announced he was running
for president, Goff said.
“The use of social media in that campaign was less that 10 percent of
what it was in 2012,” Goff said. “Twitter was in its infancy. Today,
people in the corporate and political worlds talk about having Twitter
strategies, but if you had talked about such things in 2008, you would
have been laughed out of the room because they weren’t part of the
The newly launched campaign was actually just months under way when
the iPhone was introduced in the summer of 2007, Goff noted.
Under Goff’s leadership, the 2012 campaign raised more than $690
million via the Internet, and registered more than one million voters
online. Goff’s team also built a Facebook following of more than 45
million people and a Twitter following of more than 33 million.
“We thought, as campaign conductors, that there were a lot of other
things that came with this rapid change in technology,” Goff said. “We
had to be on top of all the technological stuff, but we also saw that
the relationship between ordinary people and campaigns, politicians and
politics itself, had changed.”
Before social media, the role of the average campaign supporter was limited, Goff said.
“If you had a lot of money, you could write a big check, and if there
were eight or 12 battleground states, you could go to a field office if
one was near you,” Goff said. “All of a sudden, these tools were in the
hands of everyone. People now had the ability to reach hundreds or
thousands of people across state borders.”
Democracy has undergone a fundamental change in the way voters participate in today’s political campaigns, Goff said.
“People have the ability to reply back to a politician about a policy
they may or many not like, and the friends of these people can see that
such questions have been asked on social media,” Goff said. “People
expect to be treated in a certain way and they expect people in
positions of power to be responsible. They also want to receive
While much has changed, campaigns still seek to fulfill the same basic goals and objectives, Goff said.
“We still want to recruit volunteers, register voters, turn them out
to vote, persuade those who turn out to vote our way, and to raise money
to pay for all of this,” Goff said. “These are the same things we would
have wanted to do four years or 40 years earlier.”
While the ways in which voters receive information has changed,
people still hold to a set of personal values by which they judge the
people they are voting for, Goff said.
“We thought that what people wanted from us was to be respected,”
Goff said. “We felt that people wanted to have a sense of being
connected and of being inspired in what they were participating in.”
Goff also believes that voters are a lot smarter than they way they are perceived in various polls.
“It’s very enlightening to interact with the actual voters,” Goff
said. “The closer you get to them, the more respect you have for them.”
Goff also joined Lindsay Hoffman, associate professor in the
Department of Communications, and Ralph Begleiter, director of UD’s
Center for Political Communication, in taking questions from students
and community members on a wide variety of topics.
The 2014 National Agenda speaker series, presented by the Center for Political Communication, is free and open to the public.
The final two presentations are scheduled at 7:30 p.m., Wednesdays,
Nov. 12 and Nov. 19, in Mitchell Hall. Mike McCurry, former press
secretary to President Bill Clinton, will discuss the “Meaning of the
Midterm Elections” on Nov. 12 and Stephanie Cutter and UD alumnus Steve
Schmidt, who directed Republican John McCain’s presidential campaign in
2008, will present a “Post-Election Analysis” on Nov. 19.
Article by Jerry Rhodes
Photos by Duane Perry
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