American Digital Strategists Bask in Netanyahu's Victory

Harris Media, based in Austin, Texas, masterminded the prime minister's digital campaign, though it denies doing so at the request of the U.S. Republican Party.

Reuters

The election victory of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has highlighted the role of political American strategists Vince Harris and Michael Duncan, who managed the Likud's digital campaign in the six weeks leading up to the election.

Harris, 26, is considered the media wonder child of the Republican Party in the United States. His Austin, Texas-based company, Harris Media, masterminded the 2012 Senate campaign of Ted Cruz, a potential 2016 presidential candidate, and he is currently the digital strategist of another potential candidate, Senator Rand Paul.

Before the election, Harris denied an Army Radio report that he had been specially sent by the Republican Party to help out Netanyahu, who was slumping in the polls.

“I have not spoken to Sen. Cruz or to Mitch McConnell about my job here,” Harris told the Jerusalem Post. “My Israeli work is completely separate from my work in the U.S., so what is being reported is not true. I love Israel, and I am excited to be here to help the Likud and the prime minister use digital media in an effective and forward-looking manner.”

In a post-election interview with New York Magazine, Duncan, 28, explained some of the tactics that he and Harris had used in securing Netanyahu's victory.

"There were times when we were being attacked simultaneously from the left, from the center-left, and also from the right," Duncan said.. You had to be very careful with how you were communicating with the persuadable subsets of the population.

"Just because an opponent might be vulnerable on an issue, you might not attack them, because if they shed support, it might not go to you."

"Probably the best example is Prime Minister Netanyahu and [Kulanu Party leader Moshe] Kahlon. Kahlon is a natural center-right candidate, and he was formerly of the Likud. Also in his issue set were socioeconomic issues and housing prices, things like that, so we had to walk the line of addressing the needs of his coalition while also reinforcing our message of security.”

Another point emphasized by Duncan was reinforcing the message on social media until the very last minute.

“All the polling stops the Friday before the election, and that was when we crystallized this election as a choice between left and right," he said.

"That’s what brought us over the top Our message online was very simple. It was, ‘It’s us or them.’ ‘Only the Likud can prevent a leftist government.’ ‘Unless we close the gap between Labor and Likud, there will be a leftist government, and the right cannot afford to fracture itself among these smaller parties.’"