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Meg Whitman Hands Out Free USB Bracelets

Joshua Sharp

Posted: Mar 1st 2009 5:23PM

Filed under: US Elections, Politics, USC

It may not have been as evident in this weekend's CPAC conference with the typical bumper stickers and bombastic speakers, but a growing number of Republicans are moving to close the technology gap with 2010 campaigns in mind.

Consider the innovative USB bracelets handed out by Republican gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman's campaign at the California Republican Party Convention. The 512MB flash drives contain a two-minute campaign video with space left for other files, so it can be used for daily tasks while bearing Meg Whitman's campaign message around the user's wrist.

For the former eBay CEO, the bracelets are a strong reinforcement of her theme, "A New California." But their price tag -- up to $8-$12 apiece, a quick Web search suggests -- threatens to undercut Whitman's desired image as a fiscal conservative.

UPDATE 6:31pm: Whitman campaign spokesman Mitch Zak says in an e-mail that the campaign distributed close to 1,000 USB bracelets at the state party convention, at a cost of around $7 apiece. The idea came from senior advisor Jeff Randle, according to Zak, and "the response was phenomenal."

Zak adds: "We liked them because they allowed people to show their support for the Campaign, we were able to share a video produced to engage people in the effort and it's something that people will keep and use most likely for the duration of the Campaign. It's a great value and demonstrates the power of technology and creativity Meg wants to harness to create a New California."

Meanwhile, GOP Senate hopeful Chuck DeVore has attracted national attention for fundraising via the social networking site Twitter, with donations reported via a Twitter feed. The California Assemblyman hopes to defeat the incumbent Democrat Sen. Barbara Boxer in part by modeling the Obama presidential campaign's embrace of new technology and small donations of around $20. Instead of hiring a communications director in the typical sense, the DeVore campaign has brought on Justin Hart as "director of new media."

Even John McCain is twittering, counting down the top 10 "porkiest projects" in the omnibus bill. The list is dutifully recorded by Politico: here, here and here, with $1.7 million for pig odor research in Iowa winning the dubious top honors.

My colleague Kaitlynn Riely cautions not to fall behind, but I think the key is in using these new technologies for practical and effective purposes. Gimmicks are an easy way to generate buzz in the short-term, but the greater challenge is found in translating that momentum into greater fund-raising and electoral success.

UPDATE 11:21pm: In a comment below, Justin Hart discusses another low-cost tool used by the DeVore campaign.

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