Thursday, November 15, 2007

Vote or Get Roundhouse Kicked in the Face

Chuck Norris, of Walker, Texas Ranger fame as well as the inspiration for the popular internet phenomenon Chuck Norris Facts, recently sent out an e-mail to supporters of Republican candidate Mike Huckabee asking for - nay, demanding - campaign contributions for Huckabee.

The email also included several "Huckabee Facts." Probably something along the lines of "Mike Huckabee has two speeds: Walk, and cut taxes." Or "When Democrats go to sleep every night, they check their closets for Mike Huckabee."

Maybe that one Chuck Norris fact is actually true: "Contrary to popular belief, America is not a democracy, it is a Chucktatorship."

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

The Web Pays Attention to Long-Shots

You no longer have to be a front-runner to get people to notice you. Long-shot candidates are making creative use of the web, not in spite of the fact that they're long-shots, but because of it.

In Democrat Chris Dodd's web site's coverage of the Presidential debates, he includes the "Talk Clock": a meter that measures how often candidates got to talk during debates, and the results are disproportionate.

Meanwhile, Republican Tom Tancredo (who?) has been causing quite a stir on blogs and in news stories with a new fear-mongering ad, intended for cable stations, that converges illegal immigration and terrorism:

This miles-over-the-top ad seems like a cry for attention from a long-shot candidate. Because of the web, though, Tancredo certainly got the attention he wanted with this ad.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Ads In Unlikely Places

The lesson learned here is to be careful where you place your internet ads. The New York Times discovered that conservative, anti-gay-marriage Presidential candidate Mitt Romney has unintentionally been putting advertisements on Oh, the irony.

Romney's ads have also shown up on, a site for fan-written stories based on popular TV shows, books, and movies. Fanfiction notoriously includes gay relationships, sexual promiscuity, and other things Romney would disapprove of. So next time you're reading a fanfiction about the pornographic adventures of Harry Potter, remember to vote for Mitt Romney!

The newness of internet advertising seems to be what's to blame for this blunder. Though the web is huge now, savvy political advertising on it still has to catch up. As the article points out, it's easy to lose control of your audience on the internet.

And I can only imagine the bizarre presence of Romney's ad on the website:

Money Bomb Detonated, Millions Raised

How could a candidate who's currently polling at 2.2% raise over $4.2 million in one day? Simple: the internet.

I'm talking about Ron Paul, who we already know is an internet superstar. But the big news this week is that his internet donation campaign, Remember the 5th of November, raised $4.2 million on Guy Fawkes Day, surpassing any one-day Republican donations so far. The aim of the 5th of November was to get supporters to donate at least $100 each, and clearly, it adds up.

Some attribute this to Paul's geek appeal among libertarians. But as Paul spokesman Jesse Benton noted, this fundraiser had been "building up virally" in chat rooms and throughout the internet.

Paul's passionate supporters have another "money bomb" set to go off on November 11th, Veteran's Day, as well as one commemorating the Boston Tea Party on December 16th, known as the Ron Paul Tea Party.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Viral Video Catches Edwards' Attention

Before the dawn of YouTube and "viral videos," this video that a University of North Carolina journalism student, Carla Babb, made for an MTV contest and posted online probably wouldn't have drawn this much attention. Take a look:

When this was posted on YouTube last week, Babb's professor C. A. Tuggle said, as quoted in this New York Times article, he quickly received a call from officials in Edwards' campaign complaining about the video and asking that it be taken down.

Edwards' officials say they never made this demand. Regardless, the commotion made over the video has only made it more popular online. As Tuggle put it in this CNN report, "they didn't want us to put it out there... now it's everywhere." This speaks to the way the internet can make the concerns of everyday citizens more visible to politicians.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

1.2 Million Refrigerator Boxes for Stephen Colbert

In my last post, I talked about comedian Stephen Colbert of The Colbert Report's run for the Presidency. The big news over the weekend was that his Facebook group, 1,000,000 Strong For Stephen T Colbert, actually reached a million members (one of which is me) - a feat no serious Presidential candidate has been able to achieve, as I noticed here.

Colbert commented on this, saying, "it took only 8 days for my group to triple the 400,000 members in Obama's group, and and only 8 seconds to triple the number of members in Gravel's group, One Refrigerator Box for Mike Gravel."

This New York Times article quotes a Facebook spokeswoman who says that Colbert's group was so popular it overloaded Facebook's servers for a brief period. The article's author, Brian Stelter, remarks that this is "the kind of grassroots support that the established candidates can only dream of."

And, speaking as a member of Colbert's "one million strong" group but no others, Stephen Colbert is the type of candidate us Facebookers can only dream of.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

The Online Crusade for Truthiness

Comedian Stephen Colbert no longer just plays a political pundit on TV; he's also running for President - though only on the South Carolina primary ballot. And he's already polling over 2% among Democrats. Despite his claim that Doritos is the main sponsor of his campaign coverage, I don't think that his campaign would be possible without the internet.

The Colbert '08 site was set up to mobilize his voters as soon as his candidacy was announced. The Colbert Report website, No Fact Zone, has a collection of blog posts that cover his Presidential run, as well as a trove of links to articles and other media about this event.

The internet also allows his fans to discuss his Presidential run and express their opinions. Fans all across the country are able to share information with each other about the rules and procedures involved with South Carolina primaries. There are also debates on blog communities over just how far he will, or should, take his Presidential campaign.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Online Politics and Women

Last week, I posted about the effect that age and rural locations have on whether or not people use the internet for political information. Well, a New York Times article from earlier this month gave me another factor to think about: gender.

In the article, Katharine Seelye claims that men participate more in online politics than women because men can show their opinions online and focus on problem-solving without being concerned with details, as women typically are.

Seelye also points out that Hillary Clinton, while devoting a lot of time to courting the female vote, gears her website more towards men, with her up-to-the-minute updates and her calls for action. But I found that she also takes a conversational tone in many of her videos and frequently talks about "softer" issues like health care, which Seelye says women are more interested in. Although men might dominate the political sphere on the internet, I do think that politicians like Clinton are making efforts to draw in female voters online.

You can help me find out more about internet demographics and politics by filling out the poll I just added to the sidebar of this blog. Thanks!

Thursday, October 18, 2007

The Fluff of Candidate Family Blogs

Yesterday, Alex Beam of The Boston Globe lambasted what he called the "ham-handed use of the Internet" among the Presidential candidates. Who does Beam name as the greatest offenders? Beam singles out Hillary Clinton for spamming supporters with contrived emails from Bill, and Mitt Romney for the corny "Five Brothers" blog.

When checking out "Five Brothers," I found it to be a great example of all the pitfalls that come with the blogs of political insiders and family members. It manages to contain a lot of words without really saying anything at all. Does anyone who isn't already a huge Romney fan honestly care about seeing staged pictures of Mitt Romney with his grandkids or reading about how Tagg Romney was convinced by his dad not to register as a Democrat and become part of the GOP instead?

The brothers also linked to the blog of John McCain's daughter Meghan. This is just as painfully cutesy as "Five Brothers": it refers to itself as a "blogette" and, according to the Bros, will be discussing "shoes and … fashion tips" as well as the realm of politics. Like, oh my God!

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

They're Just Not That Into the Internet

Despite the craze of the internet during this Presidential race, some people just aren't into it. In a New York Times article last week, Julie Bosman looks at some Iowa caucus-goers who use traditional means of getting political information and opinions. Retired art historian Jean M. James of Iowa says she "can't be bothered" with things like blogs or YouTube, and a lawyer in Iowa says online commentary on politics just "never seemed important" to him.

Bosman attributes this to the fact that Iowa's population is generally older and more rural than average. Though they're not involved with the internet, they're still very involved in politics. Older people avidly watch television or read newspapers, and farmers listen to talk radio on their tractors.

With all the frenzy surrounding this new kind of political communication online, it can sometimes be difficult to imagine the perspective of voters who still rely on traditional media. We have to remember that while the internet is a good way for politicians to spread their message to a broad audience and gain support from young people, traditional media is still what dominates politics and determines votes in the end.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Even More on Facebook!

Scott Shrake of the Huffington Post wrote an amusing article analyzing the popularity of candidates on Facebook. Shrake approaches Facebook as an outsider, since he is outside the normal demographic, and also just recently joined the site. But he decided to check out the politics on Facebook, since young people think traditional polls are "lame."

Though Shrake readily admits his data isn't exactly scientific, the observations he makes match up with what I found in my first post about Facebook. Obama is the most popular candidate on Facebook, since his supporters are so active online. The "one million strong" group for Obama has about 375,000 members, the closest to a million out of any of the purported "one million strong" groups.

Surprisingly, when I put "one million strong" into the search engine for Facebook groups, the first group that came up wasn't Obama's, but an anti-Hillary Clinton group. As Shrake mentions in his article, the divisiveness over Hillary Clinton reigns on the web.

Internet-Only Ad: A Smart Move?

On the five-year anniversary of the often-referenced Congressional vote on the Iraq war, Barack Obama has made an interesting choice. He decided to release an ad about his opposition to the war both then and now, entitled "Blank Check" - an internet-only ad. Why internet-only?

Well, in today's post on the New York Times blog The Caucus, Jeff Zeleny points out that "the ad is largely aimed at Obama supporters or people who are already a part of his vast online community." Zeleny believes that this is because all that can be said about the issue has already been said to the broader audiences.

I think that, seeing how strong Obama's supporters are in the online realm, there's more to it than Zeleny suggests. Instead of putting the ad on TV, the ad could gain internet popularity through word of mouth from his supporters. People are more likely to pay attention to the ad this way, rather than passively seeing it on TV and then forgetting about it.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Facebook, Part Two: Ron Paul Edition

In my last post, I talked about how Obama and Clinton easily have the highest numbers of supporters on Facebook's politics application. What I didn't mention, though, was the surprising candidate with the third most supporters on Facebook: Republican Ron Paul, with about 28,000.

I think the internet is perfect for nonconformist candidates like Ron Paul who don't follow the party line and don't have name recognition. Ben Worthen, a business technology blogger for the Wall Street Journal, agrees with this idea in this post. Worthen calls the internet "the great equalizing medium" and said that businesses and other politicians could learn from Paul's approach to Web 2.0, which allows supporters to interact with the campaign and feel engaged.

It's no surprise that Ron Paul supporters are described in this article as "clogging Internet straw polls." And it's also no surprise that, in the same article, Ron Paul is quoted as saying "the internet ought to be left free." Since so many of Ron Paul's supporters utilize the internet for his campaign, it makes sense that he supports this medium.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Politics and... Facebook?

Like most college students, I have a profile on the networking site Facebook. But unlike most college students on Facebook, I haven't added any of their new application features. These applications let you rate your top friends, attack said friends with zombies, or buy them a virtual drink, to name a few, all while cluttering your profile page with graphics.

Today, though, I decided to check out the Politics application that Facebook offers. By adding this application, Facebookers can browse Facebook profiles of different candidates, select which candidates they support (the equivalent of "friending" them), and have their choices shown on their profile.

The candidates' profile pages serve essentially the same purpose as a candidate web site, except that Facebook allows them to be less formal, so they can quote their favorite Bible verses, tell us that they like to watch 24, and get Wall comments. Personally, I'd enjoy it if the candidates truly used Facebook the way college students typically do, so you could get into a poke war with them or send them pointless virtual gifts like lava lamps.

One thing I noticed was that Barack Obama has by far the most supporters on Facebook, with about 150,000. Distantly in second is Hillary Clinton, with about 45,000 supporters. In a previous post, I noted that Obama won the youth vote in a Yahoo! online-only poll, as well as winning the poll itself, because young people were the most likely group to view the debate and vote in the poll. It looks like the same is true for the politics application on Facebook.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Strength. Innovation. Boring.

Republican candidate Mitt Romney is having a contest where users can make their own campaign ad for him online. Although the contest ended September 17th, a winner has not yet been announced.

While this video contest is a commendable idea, none of the videos I watched impressed me. The videos contain all the elements we're used to seeing in professional campaign ads: vague and positive words like "strength" and "innovation," sound clips from the candidate accompanied by phrases in all-caps that jump out at the viewer, and random patriotic images like the Statue of Liberty or the American flag. While all of the videos I looked at had these elements, this video epitomizes what I'm talking about - and it's the one that got the most "loves" on the site.

I think that this contest could, in theory, be an opportunity to get creative and try a new angle with campaign ads. Since the internet is more personal and accessible than other media, I thought the ads should be too. Instead, though, it's amateurs imitating the typical professional campaign ads we normally see on TV.

The problem might not be in the contestants themselves - I'd say it's more in the rules laid out by the Romney for President people and the video clips they provided. Though they want to look hip and trendy by sponsoring this internet contest, they also don't want to stray from the conventional campaign ad.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Isn't Calling It a "Mashup" a Bit Much?

Today, Yahoo! announced the winner of the Democratic Candidate Mashup, its online-only debate. The viewers chose Barack Obama as the winner, with 35% of the vote. Hillary Clinton came in second at 31% - so the Big Two candidates still reigned in this poll.

The way the debate was set up for viewers online was intriguing. Users could choose the candidate they're interested in, and then select a topic for them to talk about: Iraq, health care, education, or a question from comedian Bill Maher.

This format allowed users to focus on what they want to see, instead of sitting through an entire debate with candidates and questions they might not be interested in. Although this makes the debates easy to personally navigate, it also encourages the viewers to keep the status quo in their opinions rather than exploring new ideas. While the internet is praised for its usability, it's also criticized for catering to people's short attention spans, and the same things could be said about the online debate.

Interestingly, Yahoo! reports that Clinton's clips were the most watched out of any of the candidates, even though she did not win the debate. Only 15% of people who viewed the clips voted in the poll. Obama not only won the debate itself, but also the youth demographic among those who voted, which I'm sure is no coincidence - since they're typically the most tech-savvy, they (or should I say we?) would probably be the most likely to vote in an online poll.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Don't Tase Me, Bro

Unless you live under a rock, you've probably heard about University of Florida student Andrew Meyer getting tased by police during a Kerry Q&A (video here).

Some blogs have been proposing that this is a conspiracy by Republicans. This might have been a valid argument three years ago, when Kerry was relevant. But I don't see what the benefit to the Republicans is in all this now, when the spotlight is off Kerry.

What really takes the cake, though, is the suggestion that Kerry was responsible for the tasering. What would Kerry have to gain at all from that? Besides, as this ABC News blog points out, Kerry does not bring his own security to events, so it was up to UF to supply the security.

I'm of the opinion that, as Jon Stewart put it, this is just a "combination of police overreaction and student douchebaggery." Nothing more.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Were the YouTube Debates Revolutionary?

One thing that interested me about the first YouTube debate was the introduction. In it, YouTube user Chris requested:

…since this is such a "revolutionary debate," that you as politicians can do something "revolutionary," and that is to actually answer the questions that are posed to you tonight.
How do you think the Democrats fared with this challenge? Did they answer difficult questions directly, or did they "dip and dodge," as YouTube user Will puts it, despite the unique format of the debates?

The YouTube debates changed the way we ask politicians questions, but it seems it didn't change how they answer them. The
Republican debate airs November 28, and I'm not expecting it to be any better in this regard.