New vs. old media in VA-7 campaign

Jack Trammell's campaign is continuing to develop. There have been some growing pains, like a failure to file his financial disclosure forms. (Although this kind of thing happens all the time.) But he's picked up a pro campaign manager, Atlanta Democrat Beth Cope, and his website is looking more and more like a "real" candidate's website. (No longer does he have the "minimal" online presence CNN noted when he was first thrust into the spotlight.)

And so his fundraising appeals have developed as well. The latest "Team Trammell" e-mail, sent on Tuesday, looks like a typical direct mail fundraising letter. It warns that Dave Brat is hanging around with E.W. Jackson, the conservative Republican who ran for VA Lt. Governor last year. The intent is clear: paint Brat as an extremist because he hangs around with extremists. (The e-mail reminds us, "The former Lt. Governor candidate made national headlines for his views on the evils of yoga! According to Jackson, yoga could open individuals to Satan." It also mentions the term "Tea Party" 8 times in less than 300 words.)

But what's really interesting about this fundraising e-mail (although maybe only to me) is that it notes that Brat and Jackson were together on a "radio show." But that's not correct; what Brat did was appear on a conference call with his fellow conservative. That's right: a conference call. In 2014.

Jackson is an interesting figure. His failed campaign in 2013 was called an "unmitigated disaster" for the GOP, and that's probably an understatement. (His statements on gays make his "Satan's yoga" claims look downright cute.) But Jackson runs an organization, Staying True to America's National Destiny, or STAND, that runs weekly conference calls.

Calls like these are not unusual on Wall Street or for political campaigns, but they're usually used to run virtual press conferences for the media. (Although they are sometimes cracked open by the public, with strange results.) But STAND's weekly call is available to anyone, with the number published on the website. Jackson clearly means to use it not to educate the media, but to reach out to supporters and promote his ideas and the ideas of his guests.

This is more than a fringe operation: Jackson's first guest when he started these calls in February was Mike Huckabee, and he's hosted other conservative luminaries like Louie Gohmert and Allan West. It seems unlikely so many heavy hitters would show up for Jackson unless they thought he was getting people to listen.

So who is calling in to hear Jackson talk to Brat? I'd venture a guess that it's people who don't spend a lot of time online. These folks tend to be older, tend to be more conservative, and tend to vote Republican. Demographics matter in campaigns, and Brat is smart not to ignore this. In fact, Brat is continuing the strategy that worked for him against Cantor: lay low in the mainstream media, but work the conservative networks to make sure you are speaking to your own people.

(And it's not like Jackson ignores the interwebs: he has a YouTube channel where he publishes short videos and the audio from his conference calls.)

Media coverage and scholarly studies of campaigns are understandably excited about new technologies and new ways of reaching voters; the Obama campaign famously took the use of data to new heights, for example. But we should remember that there are plenty of people who use older tech, who are more comfortable on the phone than online. And these people matter in elections, particularly for Republicans.

So Brat continues to find ways to reach out to his supporters. We'll see how successful Trammell is in reaching out to his.