On January 4, CNN reported that Elizabeth Warren had hired Joe Rospars to work for her presidential exploratory committee. The network reported that Rospars will work “in a senior capacity,” overseeing “grassroots mobilization, national operations and planning in the early states.”
Rospars was the head of digital strategy for both of Barack Obama’s presidential campaigns. He also worked on Howard Dean’s failed presidential campaign in 2004. Here’s what you need to know:
1. Rospars Co-Founded the Media Strategy Firm Blue State Digital, Which Has Been Called ‘Obama’s Secret Digital Weapon’
Rospars co-founded Blue State Digital in 2004; he and the other founders were all veterans of Howard Dean’s failed presidential run in 2004. The firm works on digital strategies for politicians and non-profit groups; their clients have included UNICEF, Google, and MIT. The firm works on advocacy, fundraising, and membership campaigns. Blue State Digital also works on digital strategy for corporate brands, including the Ford Motor Company, AT&T, and Stonyfield Farm.
Blue State Digital has been described as “Obama’s secret digital weapon” and is credited with playing a major role in both of Obama’s presidential campaigns. Rospars is both a founding partner and the creative director of Blue State Digital.
2. Rospars Says Trump Is Helping Energize Democrats but Warned That the Party Needs to Keep Expanding
Rospars is an occasional contributor to Time Magazine and other news sites, where he writes political commentary and reminisces about his experience in Obama’s campaigns.
In 2017 he wrote a piece for Time titled, “How Donald Trump Is Helping Democrats Build a Winning Movement.” He argued that opposition to Trump is helping to energize Democrats, saying, “as the Trump reality sets in, we’re seeing scores of new organizations emerge and existing institutions infused with new energy.” But Rospars also called on Democrats not to simply play to their base; he said the best plan for Democrats is to keep up a tireless, grassroots organizing and to keep on expanding.
Rospars said, “my experience in Democratic politics and campaigns over 15 years, through wins and losses, has convinced me that our organizations are at their best when we’re looking to organize beyond those who already have a so-called “seat at the table” to the people who we can activate for the first time, or for the first time in a long time.”
3. Rospars Says Howard Dean’s Scream Helped Launch Modern Digital Campaigning
Rospars worked on Howard Dean’s failed presidential campaign back in 2004. Today, that campaign is mainly remembered for Dean’s “scream” gaffe. After he came in third in the Iowa Democratic caucus, Dean gave a speech to supporters, in which he said, “Not only are we going to New Hampshire, we’re going to South Carolina and Oklahoma and Arizona and North Dakota and New Mexico, and we’re going to California and Texas and New York. … And we’re going to South Dakota and Oregon and Washington and Michigan, and then we’re going to Washington, D.C., to take back the White House! Yeah!”
The “yeah!” from Dean’s speech sounded odd, cracked, and high-pitched to some listeners, and it got a lot of re-play . It’s been mythologized as the reason for Dean’s loss. But Rospars argues that in fact, Dean was already heading for a loss. Rospars says he blames himself, and his team, for Dean’s loss. And he says, in a Time Magazine piece, that the Dean loss helped light a fire in him and in other strategists, so that they worked with extra discipline and intensity to get Obama elected.
Rospars wrote, “the Dean campaign was a wake-up call for me about the importance of disciplined organization in our political process, and a reminder that narratives about what’s happening in an election can be upturned at any time by organizational realities and the flawed human beings who make decisions (or don’t) in the heat of a campaign.”
4. Rospars Was the DNC’s Internet Director Before Going to Work for Obama
Rospars served as a writer and strategist for the Howard Dean campaign in 2004. Afterward he went to work for the Democratic National Committee as Internet Director. At the same time, Rospars founded his digital strategy firm, Blue State Digital, along with a group of other veterans of the Dean campaign.
In 2007, Rospars left his DNC position to work for Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign. He was the “new media director” for Obama’s first presidential campaign. During Obama’s re-election campaign, Rospars served as the chief digital strategist.
5. Rospars Graduated from George Washington University & Studied Abroad in the Czech Republic
Rospars holds a degree in political science from George Washington University. He also spent some time abroad, studying the Czech language at Charles University in Prague.
Rospars also studied in the Netherlands at Erasmus University Rotterdam, where he participated in the debate society.