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Where's Mini-Mitt? In Search of End-Of-Quarter Dollars

BY Michael Turk | Tuesday, September 25 2007

(I currently serve as an outside advisor to Friends of Fred Thompson. This post should not be construed as an official position of the campaign, however. These thoughts are mine alone and do not reflect the views of the Committee.)

There's a lot of buzz in GOP internet circles about the glaring omission from Romney's site. As we approach the end of the fundraising quarter, we all expected the return of mini-Mitt, the annoying and intrusive pitchman for the Romney campaign's June finance crush.

With no mini-Mitt to talk about, I thought I'd look at what the campaigns are doing to grab those last minute dollars. There's a lot going on, and it's interesting to track the different tactics.

The House Party

In lieu of mini-Mitt, the Romney guys have rolled out a snazzy little splash page pimping the Rally for Romney (a clever rebranding of the standard "House Parties" tactic). Like Rudy's House Party (scheduled for the 26th), the idea behind the Rally for Romney is to allow grassroots fundraisers to bundle checks and ship them off to the campaign before the end of the quarter.

House Parties are an effective method of raising money, but by comparison to traditional online tactics, I'm not sure they're hugely profitable versus the labor. If your diligent at all about vetting the fundraisers your authorizing, you've got a lot of work to do. If your not, there is a good possibility your authorizing people with sketchy pasts to gather funds on your behalf.

I'm not sure that matters any more, however. Guilt by association used to be a significant reason for campaigns to watch their associates. If they're raising small enough amounts, it may not matter.

The Celebrity Endorsement

McCain and Hillary are taking a slightly different tack. They have decided to roll out the celebrity e-mail. For Hillary the celeb in question shares a bed with her (at least occasionally), so I'm guessing it was no trouble to have Bill pen a missive.

McCain, however, decided to use the "Dancing with the Stars" definition of "star", and rolled out an endorsement from former Dallas Cowboys quarterback Roger Staubach. Now, I'm not questioning the appeal of an octogenarian former football star, but I'd suggest someone with a bit more "name". Couldn't they find a current football player?

The celeb e-mail works, if the celeb in question is universally loved among your donors. Bill Clinton works because Democrats generally love him. Staubach is a questionable choice. I don't know anyone but the most die hard Cowboy fan who will open their wallet simply because Roger asked.

The Viral Appeal

Obama is pushing a "matching funds" program that pairs supporters. If you give $25, some other philanthropist will match your funds. You can then exchange e-mail with them. I like the idea behind this, as it gives supporters a sense of community. Some might say it's a bit goofy, but anything that makes people feel connected to the campaign empowers them to be a voice for the campaign.

The Give-Money-and-Win-Something Appeal

The Edwards camp is taking a page from the Obama playbook and offering a trip to meet up with Edwards for a handful of selected donors. His giveaway is a little different however. There's no steak dinner at a fancy restaurant in store for the winner. Nope. The grand prize winners will be whisked off to N'awlins, Louisiana for a fun filled day of rebuilding Katrina damage.

I'm not knocking voluntourism. I think efforts to help the Big Easy rebuild are fantastic. I'm just not sure that helping John do a roof raising in the Ninth Ward is the type of tchotchke most people would be hoping for.

The Thompson finance team has a similar contest going, but it's geography based. The town that brings in the most donations per capita by midnight on 9/30 gets a visit from Fred. It's sort of a cross between Eventful and traditional fundraising.

There Can Be Only One

The downside to these efforts is the only people who will ever know if they're successful are those in the respective campaigns. These aren't likely to comprise the bulk of funds raised. The money rankings will come out in a week, and the winners and losers will be declared. Ultimately, the best online fundraising idea may belong to a candidate who doesn't fare well overall.

Rest assured, though. In another 90 days, we'll do it all again.