Election 2014  
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Religious Right's Ralph Reed Field-Tests Plan for Beating Obama

Reed's Faith and Freedom Coalition, "a 21st-century version of the Christian Coalition on steroids," is leading the effort.

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Various targeting strategies were deployed in the Wisconsin recall, added Rick Furr, who spoke as if his company had worked with Faith and Freedom Coalition in the campaign. In an offhand remark, Furr mentioned that his Sports Media Group counted among its clients the Home Depot, the retailer co-founded by right-wing billionaire sugar-daddy Kenneth Langone.

Furr explained how he targeted somewhere between 17,000 - 20,000 conservative Wisconsin voters for text messages on the recall that included a link to the Faith and Freedom Coalition voter guide -- a link that was opened by 30 percent of those who received the text message. (See graphic, taken from a promotional packet distributed by Furr at the breakout session,  here.) Like the Christian Coalition voter guides of yore, the FFC guides list a number of deceptively framed issues in a table format, with the name and photo of its preferred candidate (in this case, Scott Walker) topping a red column noting whether the candidate "SUPPORTS" or "OPPOSES" those rhetorically presented positions. A photo of the opposition's candidate (Tom Barrett, of course) tops a blue column.

Faith and Freedom Coalition's guide for the gubernatorial recall election listed six issues: "abortion on demand," "parental choice in education," "taxpayer-funded abortion," "same-sex marriage," "eliminating the death tax," and "opposes any new taxes on Wisconsin families."

Text messages, Furr explained, are an especially effective means of communicating in elections, because, unlike e-mails or snail-mail appeals, they are almost always opened by recipients.

Nonetheless, Furr said he also ran an e-mail program for FFC in Wisconsin. One effort of which he is most proud is the targeting of conservative small-business executives. Furr said his firm collected more than 51,000 e-mail addresses in that target group, and of those targeted, only 43 individuals opted out of receiving future e-mails.

Furr also lauded the fundraising effectiveness of text messaging, especially when combined with micro-targeting. As an example, he said he could reach into databases and filter for Catholics who gave to particular charities or causes. Then he could solicit donations for the Faith and Freedom Coalition by text message through a link that immediately generated a thank-you message to the donor -- all for a mere 50-cent transaction fee. If an organization that raised funds this way wanted to do follow-up thank-you calls, that could be added to the package for a low rate of 7.5 percent of the donation, and a call center would handle the task.

Brett Doster of FFC's Florida chapter mentioned another important target group for his organization: early voters. In states where early voting is offered, it's a boon to ideologically driven groups, Doster said, because people who are inclined to vote early are mostly "philosophical voters."

To political consultants such as the panel's Adam Jones, early voters are a key to accurate internal polling, Jones explained, since 50 percent of voters in the demographic groups he's eyeing "vote before election day." A "dynamic data program" that can identify whomever voted early can help campaign operatives get a sense of what's taking place on the ground.

All Not As It Seems: The Millennium Connection

As the panel drew to a close, Rick Furr made a pitch to those in the room who lead local advocacy groups to engage his services. Those who requested them could get a packet containing information on the services his firm provides on their way out of the room.

But the packet Furr was passing out touted not his Mobile Sports Group, but the services of Millennium Marketing, the subsidiary of Ralph Reed's Century Strategy. Tucked inside the folder were business cards for Furr and Scott Foernsler bearing the Millennium Marketing logo with the title “executive director” appearing under each man’s name. Each page in the packet bore the same logo.