Why the Romney VP App Wasn’t a #Fail

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Gawker‘s Louis Peitzman makes a claim I’ve seen a lot, especially from progressives, in the wake of Mitt Romney’s selection of Rep. Paul Ryan as his running mate: The campaign kind of blew it. Not on the substance, mind you, but on the rollout. “I’m not saying this was a complete fail on the Romney campaign’s part, but to pretend that they announced Paul Ryan exactly as they’d said they would — via smartphone app, and then in a joint public appearance — is just silly,” Peitzman writes. “Instead of admitting they botched their plan to obfuscate, the Romney campaign is pushing a Hardy Boys narrative…”

Peitzman is missing something really important. The real purpose of the Romney VP app wasn’t to break the VP announcement. Sure, that’s how they pitched it. But the Romney folks (probably) aren’t so delusional as to think they’d be able to keep a secret all the way up to the roll-out.

The VP app served the same purpose the Obama campaign’s 2008 promise to text its supports its VP pick did: It was an excuse to collect your data. Although it was predictably scooped by the New York Times and CNN, Team Obama was able to collect 2.9 million phone numbers using this gimmick. Those numbers were used for fundraising and organizing efforts later in the campaign. (The downside: A glitch prevented half of Obama’s text-message subscribers from receiving the announcement text.) Download the Romney VP iPhone app and it informs you that “By using this application, you may be placed on Romney for President Inc.’s contact list to receive campaign updates… Romney for President’s regular Privacy Policy shall apply.” Romney doesn’t want you to be the first to know about his personnel moves; he wants your email and mailing address.

Since we don’t know how many people signed up for the VP app—70,000 people have downloaded Romney’s other app—it’s too early to call it a rousing success for Romney. But it’s not right to call it a #fail.

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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