Election tech: Upstarts like 'tea party' have an edge
FDR won support with his radio chats, and Kennedy took to TV. Now 'tea party' groups are tapping Twitter.
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While President Obama has gotten high marks for his grasp of social media in ‘08, “it was really the 2004 Howard Dean campaign that showed what might be possible in a medium where the price of entry is so low. The Dean campaign did it by accident, Kerbel says. “The Internet really found Dean … not the other way around. He had such a small campaign staff and organization he wasn’t in a position to exercise top-down control over his Internet support, and that was actually the reason his Internet organization grew so effectively" that it signaled the potential of the new digital medium.Skip to next paragraph
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The political earthquake that really forecast what was ahead came in Massachusetts earlier this year, says Republican strategist David Johnson. “We really saw it come of age [with] Scott Brown,” he says, pointing out that the newcomer’s campaign used Twitter to activate the base. “They all had a sense of ownership in his progress; they could follow his personal story.” In contrast, he says, Attorney General Martha Coakely was seen as cold and uncaring, “just posting platitudes on Twitter.”
But the cautionary side of an instantaneous, highly personal, and decentralized mode of politicking is already evident, says Politics Daily writer Matt Lewis. Look no further than the upset in Alaska. Newcomer Joe Miller took the Republican establishment by surprise, using Twitter to get his story out. But the very next day, says Mr. Lewis, “he was put in a position of dismissing a staffer for sending out an unauthorized [tweet] on his behalf.”
Of course, there may be no better modern example of the downside of viral social networking than what happened to Howard Dean after he let out a scream – one that was captured on video and rocketed around the digisphere and, says Lewis, effectively ended his hopes. "Back in the days of more calm reflection, where a newspaper might have made a single mention of the howl, it would have passed relatively unnoticed.” Just think, he says, of the vast online archive of everyone’s tics and youthful behavior. “When these kids grow up to run for political office, all this stuff will be there just waiting to be played endlessly online."