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Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Many posts have discussed opposition research in campaigns.  One element of oppo consists of sending "trackers" to take video of what a candidate says and does.  Democratic tracker Will Urquhart writes that tracking is tedious work, requiring a great deal of time and patience.  Useful ammunition sometimes does not reveal itself until long after it's in the box.
One thing I’ve learned is that you truly never know when a seemingly innocuous statement will eventually emerge as a major issue. In July 2011, I recorded an event in South Carolina with Michele Bachmann. During the rally, Bachmann included a new talking point in her stump speech, claiming that 47 percent of Americans paid no taxes and suggested that everyone should pay something. At the time, Bachmann’s comments attracted some attention from the Wall Street Journal and New York Times. But more than a year later, that 47 percent talking point from the GOP is back in the news because of Mitt Romney. It’s a tracker’s job to make sure we have it on tape, so that four weeks, or four months, or four years from now, if we need it, we have it.
In order to collect all of a candidate’s statements on camera means we spend a lot of time driving, about as much time waiting around, and, on good days, a solid amount of time furiously typing up a transcript of what a candidate just said. In that way, a tracker’s job is similar to how it’s been in previous election cycles. But in one way, it’s vastly different -- technology.
For starters, we’re recording on high-definition cameras. That means that if someone wants to put the footage we shoot in a TV ad, it’s high-quality video instead of grainy cell phone footage. Then, when something noteworthy happens, we can do in hours what used to take days. Just a few years ago, a tracker would have to actually physically mail their tapes back to headquarters.