McConnell Challenger Lundergan Grimes Uses Facebook to Launch ‘Team Switch’

Sen. Mitch McConnell‘s main Democratic challenger in the closely watched Kentucky Senate race is using Facebook as part of a multi-platform strategy to unseat the long-serving Minority Leader in the U.S. Senate.

Alison Lundergan Grimes’ campaign kick-off came last week as expected, with a big splash including the obligatory bus tour, rousing official kick-off speech and ending with a face-off among the candidates at the 133rd Fancy Farm event over the weekend.

She was knocked in early July for a lackluster announcement about her official entry into the race that Democrats around the country are closely observing.

In June, we spoke to McConnell’s digital director about the senator’s use of Facebook to entertain and persuade voters, going so far as to create a Harlem Shake video and other timely devices to make the Senator appear relevant, especially to the younger voters that Lundergan Grimes is expected to attract.

There’s an inherent challenge for McConnell, since he is seen as representative of a dysfunctional Congress that has an all-time low approval rating.

At the time, Lundergan Grimes had only a splash web site and no official Facebook page.  Since then, there is an official Facebook page, www.facebook.com/AlisonforKentucky, with 15,999 likes, and an unofficial Facebook page, with 7,195 likes.

Lundergan Grimes’ approach to Facebook seems pretty standard to date. The digital team is making good use of visual images and repeated pleas to share links to positive stories and to like certain posts and campaign videos–all strategies that proved effective among candidates in the 2012 election cycle.  I’m a little surprised that fundraising tools aren’t more prominent on Facebook, given that the challenger has said she needs to raise between $26 to $30 million to unseat McConnell.

We haven’t seen some of the originality in posts that the incumbent has demonstrated. However, it’s it’s still early in the race, and the veteran McConnell didn’t need to address his challengers, especially Lundergan Grimes, before she entered the race.  He had the time and the resources to craft more playful and engaging videos that created buzz.

Something appears to be working for Lundergan Grimes, though it’s unclear how much social is playing a role versus the desire by many Dems to unseat the powerful McConnell. Two polls show Lundergran Grimes up, and the much respected Cook Political Report recently moved the race to a “toss-up.”

We look forward to seeing how the Kentucky Senate candidates will employ Facebook during one of the most closely watched contests of the election cycle.

 

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