For the 2010 elections, the results of the Twitter primary are in. And the Republicans have won.
Barack Obama famously harnessed the power of the Internet and social media to aid his winning presidential campaign in 2008. But the latest leg of the marathon struggle to make best political use of the Internet is going the Republicans’ way. So says a new study, Digital I.Q. Index: U.S. Senate, put out by the L2 Think Tank for Digital Innovation, and authored by Scott Galloway of the NYU Stern School of Business and Doug Guthrie of the George Washington University School of Business.
The L2 Think Tank measures digital competence by tracking web presence on sites including Facebook, Twitter, Blogs and YouTube, in addition to personal websites. In this case, the politicians’ websites were used. And by nearly every metric, the elephant in the Upper House of Congress is the Republicans’ dominance of the web. In the month of July alone, Republicans “outpaced Democrats in absolute growth, garnering 3,000 more Twitter followers and 20,000 more Facebook ‘likes,’” the study says. Four of the five senators with greatest web presence are in the GOP, with John McCain, aided by his 1.7 million followers in twitter, attaining the number one position.
The study also says that South Carolina Republican Senator Jim DeMint is a “social genius,” and calls attention to his web approach including media buys on Facebook and an “If the mountain will not come to Mohammed” strategy on twitter, in which DeMint follows twitter users himself to attract attention.
The Republicans have greeted the news with a celebratory note, in the form of a blog post on the website gop.gov, entitled Republicans “Taking Over” Twitter.
Whether or not the dominance in new technology will translate into electoral victory is still an open question. In addition to Obama’s winning online campaign in 2008, the Democrats were also famously helped by better understanding the new medium of television when John F. Kennedy faced Richard Nixon in the first televised presidential debates in 1960. Nixon dismissed advice that he should apply makeup, but JFK took cortisone shots that made him appear robust on screen in spite of his crippling Addison’s Disease.
But it is the Democrats who know that web victories can mean nothing at the ballot box. Howard Dean’s online fundraising machine in the 2004 primaries only garnered him a third place finish in the Iowa Caucus, and his candidacy never took off.