The Rand Paul campaign wasted no time in capitalizing on hype yesterday around his marathon filibuster on the Senate floor. As the Kentucky Republican continued his hours-long discussion about provisions of the set-to-expire Patriot Act, the Rand Paul for President digital team ran online ads pushing supporters to "Add your name to Rand's Patriot Act filibuster today!"
Meanwhile, the campaign asked fans to tweet photos of themselves watching the filibuster on C-SPAN including the #StandWithRand hashtag. It also asked Twitter followers to Text the word "Filibuster" to 97063. That resulted in a responding text linking to a mobile signup requesting name and email.
In particular, Mr. Paul spoke out against the bulk collection of American citizens' phone records by the National Security Agency. Mr. Paul did not speak nonstop during the 10-plus hours filibuster. Other Senators asked for him to yield time allowing them to chime in while still allowing the Kentucky doctor to keep his place on the floor.
Here's a snippet of his speech according to a C-SPAN transcript:
"And people might say, well, your credit card records are just boring old business records. Why would you care? But think about it. If the government has your Visa bill, they can tell whether you drink, whether you smoke, what restaurants you go to, what magazines or books do you read? What doctors do you see? Do you buy medicine? Do you gamble? All of these things can be determined. Not only can they determine things directly from your phone bill and Visa bill, they now have the ability to merge all of this information."
The filibuster was anticipated by political observers. But it represents a unique moment in the exploitation of public airtime by an elected official-turned-candidate's political campaign.
Here we have a classic list-building exercise. Early on in political campaigns, growing the database of supporter contacts is imperative. That information will be used again and again to drum up donations -- particularly important for Mr. Paul once the super-crowded GOP primary kicks into gear.
"The Senator wants to bring attention to this important issue and is using every online means to do so," said Vincent Harris, who's running the Paul campaign's digital efforts. "Ads are up across Twitter, Facebook, Google search, and more." Twitter ads linked to a Patriot Act-specific signup page on the campaign site. Display ads were also running across the web alongside articles mentioning Mr. Paul's filibuster, including The Huffington Post and Business Insider.
Just think: Had then-Texas state Senator Wendy Davis employed a similar tactic to score names and donations in real-time, she may have drummed up a lot more than $1.2 million in the six weeks following her nationally-recognized pro-choice filibuster.