Posted by: Joshua Green on January 31, 2012
Because it’s impossible for me to maintain my recent, torrid pace of blogging, here’s a guest post from Bloomberg Businessweek staff writer Elizabeth Dwoskin that’s just in time for today’s primary:
Newt Gingrich believes so firmly in American technological prowess that he wants to build a moon colony. Here on earth, a group of tech savvy Newt-supporters has built something that probably holds more potential in the near term: a “Newt app” for mobile phones.
The official name is “Street Teams: Digital Strike Force for Newt in Florida,” but we’re just calling it the Newt App. It’s an Android App developed by social media boy wonder Michael Hendrix. When I last wrote about Hendrix he was running the Facebook ad campaign that helped propel GOP Congresswoman Michele Bachmann to a surprising victory at the Ames Straw Poll in Iowa last August.
As the Bachmann campaign ran low on cash, Hendrix turned his sights to helping Newt win Florida. The Newt App is a twist on traditional door-to-door canvassing, one that turns it into a social-local-mobile software experience.
Here’s how it works: From the comfort of your living room, download the app on your smartphone. Immediately, it will display a map of your neighborhood, with each house marked for its voter registration (Hendrix pulled the data from the Florida Elections Commission.). In addition to the excitement of being privy to your neighbors’ political leanings, you’re now ready to start knocking on doors. (You won’t have to waste time on the Democrats.) If the person whose door you’re knocking on already plans to vote for Newt, you’ll upload that information through the app, which feeds it back to the campaign in real-time. You can poll people on their top issues, and survey whether Republicans in your neighborhood care more about abortion, school quality, or illegal immigration. Or moon colonies. If you encounter an undecided voter, the app provides funware points for convincing them to go with your guy. You might even win a ride on the campaign bus with Newt! In the game-ification era, Street Teams volunteers are not just working to elect Newt but competing against one another for prizes.
Since Hendrix launched the app last Thursday, he claims 70 people have downloaded it, and together polled 48,000 Florida voters in seven cities — a helpful boost to a campaign that can’t afford to fund a traditional ground game. As for Hendrix himself, he’s been canvassing the state on a charter bus filled with other conservative tech nerds, including fellow app creator, Taylor Cavanah, CEO of the popular location-based software company Locai. Downloaders included members of local Tea Party groups, Republican groups from the University of Central Florida, and elected officials such as Georgia state senator Judson Hill.
Besides being cool, Hendrix’s idea has obvious applications for other Republican campaigns. (The Obama campaign has begun issuing Square mobile credit card readers to field staff, which will enable them to accept and process donations from their phones, right on people’s doorsteps.)
But Hendrix won’t be selling Street Teams to just anyone. “I wouldn’t sell this to the Obama campaign,” he told me. “I’d be selling out my conscience. Street Teams will only be available to
Republicans seeking office.” Whether or Newt makes it far beyond Florida remains to be seen. But it seems a good bet that the Newt app will make it all the way to the convention, and beyond. — Elizabeth Dwoskin