That top-to-bottom, proactive, thoughtful application of digital tools to political necessities is what everyone talks about doing, says Moffatt. But
not all campaigns are. It helps, he says, that he's senior staff, with the same access inside the campaign as the political or communications director. One group
of folks known for a similar approach: the Obama campaign, which Moffatt is quick to compliment -- with a dash of expectation-setting. "Obviously,
they're very fortunate," he says. "They have a huge head start because they've been building it for six years."
WHAT IT TAKES TO GET STARTED
Romney '12 started from scratch, says Moffatt. Challenging, yes, but not without its advantages, such as having no legacy of circa-2007
tools and thinking to build from. Of course, that presented endless choices to be made on the compressed schedule of a presidential campaign. Moffatt describes his strategy as
creating for the short-term with one eye constantly on the long game. "We're building the perfect digital and offline model to make it through the
primary process," he says. "It wouldn't make much sense for me to build out a national program if we didn't make it through the primaries. And if we
make it through the primaries, we're going to run a very different campaign in the general."
The nature of a presidential campaign can create tensions for website designers and architects. For example, the "carousel," a design feature popular with many sites today that presents a
shifting array of images and topics on which to focus, can be used to speak to true believers, potential converts, influential observers, or some mix
of all. But the choices get even more difficult when it comes to increasingly important mobile technologies. "Mobile is about what you can strip down
to the most basic and still do the most for the most people," forcing decisions about who to appeal to in that reduced real estate.
And the unique chronology of an American presidential race -- both incredibly short and sometimes painfully long -- leads to choices made under the gun
that stick around for the duration. Does your call-from-home tool connect you right to a voter, as Romney's does? Or does it rely upon the volunteer to
make the call, as Obama's does? There are legal and data implications baked into each, says
Moffatt. "You're making certain structural determinations," he says, "about what CMS [content management system] to build on, how you're going to run
your ad program, what you're design process is going to be, how you're going to do your list segmentations, all that, that you're going to have to live
with for the next year."
Some of those structural choices, Moffatt suggests, reflect more of a commitment to the long-haul than others. MittRomney.com runs on Drupal, a robust open-source system. A close observer of WordPress, the blogging and
CMS tool, noted back in May that
six Republican presidential candidates were then running on that platform
: Bachmann, Cain, Johnson, Paul, Perry, and Roemer. Meanwhile, Santorum, Gingrich, and Huntsman joined Romney on Drupal. "Building a website on
WordPress is awesome for a congressional or statewide race," says Moffatt. "But I don't know how you would run a presidential built on that. If people
had done better, I think they'd have to rebuild everything in the next two months."