Newt's Florida Digital Strike Force

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

Reader Comments

ann

January 31, 2012 9:10 PM

Interesting coming from a registered Democrat

Eric Frenchman

January 31, 2012 9:47 PM

Elizabeth,

You got your facts wrong . Hendrix never ran Michele Bachmann 's Facebook campaign. He never had anything to do with it. Never was listed as an admin. He never touched it . In fact other your stories I've never heard of him.

experience with the guy

February 1, 2012 8:35 AM

Facts wrong concerning Hendrix? Well, that sounds pretty common. (buyer beware)

Kaleb

February 1, 2012 12:33 PM

I personally had a chance to experience how dedicated Michael Hendrix and his team of tech nerds are! They are a much needed addition to the Republican party. For more information go to: http://red-digitalmedia.com/

acidboy

February 1, 2012 1:47 PM

Two blog posts in the month of January? Good heavens, Josh, you doing alright? I'm surprised you still have fingers with which to type!

Kim

February 3, 2012 5:03 PM

It is great to hear that a Republican is ahead of the curve. When you think of techies you do not think of politics. All that I have to say to Hendrix and his team is keep leading the way...

Aaron

February 3, 2012 5:14 PM

Got to see the app in use. It's a great. I hope more campaigns will use it, it def saves the volunteers time.

Jay

February 3, 2012 6:23 PM

Not sure where you got your info but Hendrix has done a great job at promotion not only politicians but also businesses.

Georgia Girl

February 3, 2012 8:35 PM

Having worked with Mr. Hendrix, the "Newt App" comes as no surprise. He has been very effective in merging both his political knowledge and technical skills into a tool that will be quite useful to future campaigns. Great Job!


eric frenchman

February 4, 2012 12:13 AM

I did not critique Hendrix's work. I have no idea if his work is good or not and other than Dwoskin's two articles I would not even know his name.

I critiqued Dwoskin's and Business Week's factually incorrect article. Hendrix had nothing to do with Bachmann's Facebook page. He never worked on it. He was never an admin. He never advised the campaign on FB.

The fact is the agency that I work for manage her FB page. Hendrix was never involved. Ever. Dwoskin got her facts wrong.

Eric

bill

February 4, 2012 10:16 AM

As a "techie"myself, I understand the work involved in this project and the benefit of this technology to future campaigns. Both Cavannah and Hendrix "knocked it out of the park." I don't think this is the last we will hear of them.

Carole Mayo

February 7, 2012 10:06 PM

It is an honor to have had the opportunity to work with both Michael and Taylor on the Gingrich Campaign in Florida; these two guys are techies with perpetual creativity. StreetTeams.co is so ingenious and user-friendly. 'Can't wait to see what's next.

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About

Led by Bloomberg Businessweek's Washington correspondent, "Joshua Green on Politics" is a blog devoted to national politics and public policy issues, from Congress to the 2012 Presidential campaign trail. A special focus will be the intersection of business and politics. Follow the author on Twitter (@JoshuaGreen). To book for television or radio appearances, call Patti Straus, 212-617-3279, or e-mail pstraus@bloomberg.net.

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