Want the latest news from the GOP's rules committee meeting in Minnesota? Your best bet is Michigan Republican Party Chairman Saul Anuzis, who posted about 40 updates today on Twitter.
Embracing Twitter was a no-brainer for Anuzis. For years the Michigan GOP chairman has bypassed the mainstream media to communicate directly with people through a personal e-mail list that has swelled to 4,000. The list includes some of the most influential politicos and reporters in Michigan as well as national bloggers and conservative leaders.
What makes Anuzis' daily e-mail so effective is its authenticity. It's written each day by Anuzis in a conversational tone with the occasional typo. (You can read it on his blog or RedState.) The strategy isn't rocket science, but it's worked brilliantly for the Michigan GOP to communicate more effectively.
"We get more earned media off of Saul's e-mail commentary than we do in our traditional media relations efforts," says Bill Nowling, communications director for the state party. Nowling told me Anuzis' e-mails are simply more appealing to reporters and bloggers who cover politics -- even if Anuzis is saying the same thing the party would in a press release.
Several Michigan bloggers chat with Anuzis on Instant Messenger. If you send him an e-mail, you're likely to get an quick response. The chairman regularly responds to 200 to 300 per day.
Think Anuzis is a busy guy. No doubt about it. And we've just scratched the surface.
The team he's assembled in Lansing has been hard at work to make the state competitive for John McCain. Anuzis often says all is takes to win is money and everything else. If he's out raising the money, his staff back at party headquarters is doing everything else.
Nowling and Executive Director Jeff Timmer are key to building the infrastructure. Under their direction, the state party has rebuilt its website to provide more information to volunteers about their local party organization. More importantly, they've deployed an eLeader Program that allows volunteers to e-mail their friends and contacts. The party benefits by tracking the information in a database. After only a couple months, 225 activists are using it to raise money.
Michigan was the first state party to embrace the GOP Toolbar, which funnels a few pennies to the state GOP every time users type a Yahoo-based search in their browser. The toolbar was the work of former McCain adviser John Weaver. Nowling said it brings in about $1,000 per month to the Michigan Republican Party.
From a messaging standpoint, the state GOP is experimenting with Facebook to reach supporters. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Ann Arbor to sell her new book prompted Anuzis to quickly organize a protest that drew about 50 people on a rainy night. Anuzis created an event on Facebook just 24 hours earlier and e-mailed his 1,500 friends.
Nowling acknowledged that Anuzis catches flak from detractors and even other GOP leaders, but he shows no sign of slowing down. Anuzis recently spoke to the National Conference of State Legislators in New Orleans about staying ahead of the curve. He regularly prods his fellow Republicans to do so as well.
"We're successful because Saul is invested," Nowling said. "When technology advanced so he could do this kind of political activity online, he just rode the wave."