When the Obama campaign e-mailed me about his decision to send text messages to its supporters about Obama’s choice of a running mate, I thought it was nothing more than a clever gimmick.
Strategically, I thought that the texting method of announcing the next vice president was wise because it would make his supporters feel important and empowered, and that it would generate a decent buzz in the media.
The ploy may seem silly — the fad candidate adopts the latest tech fad — but it’s an important part of one of Mr. Obama’s most under-recognized campaign efforts.
But announcing Mr. Obama’s running mate by text message has little to do with proclaiming the selection and everything to do with getting out the vote on Election Day in November. The move should add thousands — and more likely tens or hundreds of thousands — of cellphone numbers to what is already one of the most detailed political databases ever created.
A study conducted during the 2006 elections showed that text-message reminders helped increase turnout among new voters by four percentage points, at a cost of only $1.56 per vote — much cheaper than the $20 or $30 per vote that the offline work of door-to-door canvassing or phone banking costs.
For Mr. Obama, who is building his campaign around bringing in new young voters and registering minority voters, there’s no more effective outreach than a text message.
And it makes a lot of sense. If the race remains as close as it appears to be, young and first-time voters will be Obama’s key to victory. It makes a lot of sense to get their cell phone numbers now as people await his choice with anticipation and then text them a few times between now and November with other campaign updates, and then work to get out the vote through text messages.
I’m loving this campaign.