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Romney's and Obama's Teams Take It To The Tweets

BY Sarah Lai Stirland | Friday, February 3 2012

Mitt Romney's campaign says President Obama is too focused on re-election. Picture: Courtesy Romney for President

The business of political fund-raising has taken a new turn this campaign season, with the latest twist seeing Barack Obama's re-election effort and Mitt Romney's pursuit of the Republican nomination each piggyback their latest fundraising pitch on the other's content, turning it around to appeal for money.

The two, dueling, hall-of-mirrors campaigns to motivate supporters to give money began last week. It started with an e-mail just after the president's State of the Union speech when Matt Rhoades, campaign manager for former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney, forwarded a fundraising e-mail from President Obama's campaign to the governor's own mailing list.

The e-mail's subject line: "If you liked what you saw." Obama for America's Campaign Manager Jim Messina sent out the note, which was a solicitation for a small donation of $3 from the president's supporters.

Rhoades had cheekily appropriated Messina's message, forwarded it and provided Romney's supporters with an alternative course of action if they didn't like what they saw: Give the $3 to Governor Romney instead.

And so began the latest round of tit-for-tat of stealing each others' lines, content and logos to point fingers at the other side while appealing to supporters for money.

"This is new: It's common to use others' words against them, that's Campaigning 101, but we haven't seen this level of integration before," said Ryan Cassin, a partner at Connect Strategic Communications, a Republican-leaning online strategy company based in Atlanta, Georgia.

And as Cassin notes, the strategy must be benefitting both campaigns, because they keep doing it. The whole idea is to use the tactic as a motivational tool for voters who are already invested in the campaigns in a game of one-upping each other.

The Obama team successfully deployed the tactic in the past couple of days when Messina fired off another fund-raising e-mail asking supporters for another $3 to help create its "Two-Term Fund." He was responding to the Romney's campaign's creation of its "One Term Fund," established to capitalize on the wave of Romney decisive Tuesday Republican primary victory against former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich in Florida.

The campaign reports that more then 52,529 people have donated more than two million dollars toward the "fund" as of Thursday afternoon, (when the page reporting the numbers was last updated.)

Meanwhile, Romney's campaign reports that it's raised $1.25 million so far for its own one-term fund.

Its fund-raising video on its solicitation page features camera shots of Obama's Facebook page, the campaign's web site, its Twitter page and its fund-raising e-mails as evidence that the president is more concerned about his re-election than on fixing the economy.

The back and forth isn't limited to e-mail. It's taking place on Twitter as well with both teams sending Tweets back and forth to each other reporting their fundraising numbers as they increased. That in turn inspired a Tweet from former George W. Bush White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove, who characterized the $3 fund-raising drive as a sign of "low enthusiasm," on the part of Obama supporters.

That Tweet made it into another Messina e-mail sent out this Friday morning that explained that the $3 amount is to get a wide group of people involved in the campaign instead of leaving it in the hands of "the guy doing a lot of the selling for a party bought and sold by special interests."

The Obama Two Term Fund's numbers speak for themselves. But some recipients of the e-mails seem fed up of the tactics.

"This is getting really childish," one Obama supporter commented to me.

But on Twitter, many supporters had the opposite reaction.

"@KarlRove @BarackObama Thanks Karl Troll. You just motivated me to donate a much larger amount to two term fund! 4 more years!!!" tweeted "markjacobs20" on Friday afternoon.