Now that the election is over and we have an understanding of the numbers that were put up by both campaigns, I think we can safely say that the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill both killed the McCain campaign and reinforced social media at the helm of communications for the future.
Let me explain. There were over 120 million votes cast (a conservative number at that!) in yesterdays election. That is almost all of the eligible voting population, or approximately an 85% turnout rate. Obama raised nearly $900M for his campaign and spent nearly $860M of that.
What happened over the past 2 years has been simply extraordinary. McCain-Feingold Campaign Finance Reform Act was passed in 2002 to much fanfare by placing strict regulations on “hard” and “soft” money. Hard money was money contributed directly to a candidate while soft money was defined as money contributed to a party for discretionary allocation. Usually, soft money was tied up in “issue based” advertising that benefitted a candidate indirectly.
McCain-Feingold imposed limits on how much money could be contributed to a campaign by special interests. This placed the “money support” mandate in the hands of individuals. Obama capitalized on this by extensive use of grassroots campaigning. Jay Voorhees calls it an Open Source Presidency.
Through the use of Twitter, Facebook, blogs, and text messaging, he locked in the Gen X and Millenial votes and raised more money with grassroots efforts (“Donate $5, please”) than any other campaign in history.
Social media friends here in DC went to Florida, Virginia and Colorado to ensure that the vote was turned out for Obama.
Special interest had little role in this election. Passionate people rallied and inspired, contributing frequently in small amounts, powered this victory.
Meanwhile, the McCain campaign tried to run a traditional campaign subject to the rules that the candidate himself authored in 2002.
Victory will always go to the individual who is able to adapt to changes in the landscape and Obama clearly did that better than McCain.