Archive for Ron Paul

Ron Paul Goes to the (Virtual) Mat

Banned from the Fox News debate of Republican Presidential candidates in New Hampshire Sunday, the Ron Paul campaign and its legion of wired followers is taking it protest to the Web. No surprise there: Paul’s campaign is the most-wired Republican campaign in United States history, even as the mainstream media tends to condescend to the libertarian’s potent Internet effort, continuing to treat him as a curiosity even as he begins to out-poll superstars like Rudy Giuliani. A new ProtestFox website is angry and succinct:

We need to send a message to Fox’s Rupert Murdoch & his fellow Neocon buddies that he is not Musharraf and the US is not Pakistan, yet! Fox News cannot just stifle public opinion. debate and impact a primary election by excluding Ron Paul just because they don’t like his message of freedom and liberty.”

Meanwhile, Paul backers have swamped Fox News pages dedicated to Sunday’s debate, leaving more than 1,110 comments so far. And the campaign is providing email addresses to Fox executives from Rupert Murdoch on down, flooding their inboxes with complaints. Several anti-Fox Facebook groups have formed and are signing up members quickly. So far, no movement by Fox News (which tends to favor mainstream Republicans in its coverage) despite protests from the New Hampshire Republican leadership.

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Iowa Was CauseWired

Say what you will about the results, but you can’t argue the method. Last night’s Iowa caucuses were totally “CauseWired,” if you’ll pardon my attept to turn a book title into geekspeak. From the hordes of young and indepenent voters who migrated from Facebook and MySpace to actual caucus sites in Iowa for Barack Obama to Mike Huckabee’s network of Christian voters and a GOP Twitter network to Ron Paul’s surprising double-digit finish after wildly successful online organizing, social networks put feet on the ground – and fired up a new, younger, better-wired electorate like never before.

Blogger Elaine Young asked the question aloud – the one that some us were asking a lot (in addition to who won and lost) last night:

My question is actually simpler…well…maybe not. What does social media have to do with it? Did the Twittering and Facebooking and MySpacing and Action Centers and blogging make a difference and get more people out to caucus or help spread the word in any way?

I don’t think we know the full answer yet, and the race is far from over. But I do think Obama’s showing was particularly important. All along, he’s been the leader in Facebook and MySpace friends, racking up millions of youthful followers – but many pundits doubted aloud whether that kind of light social networking around a popular candidate would have any real effect on an election. After all, they’d argued, candidates have pinned their hopes on the youth vote and been disappointed since Gene McCarty tramped through the snow in New Hampshire back in ’68. But it was very clear last night the old formula is changing, especially for Democrats. Chris Bowers, an analyst for the OpenLeft blog, summed it up:

The youth of America isn’t navigating a path between the two parties, they are overwhelmingly siding with one party. What they want is change and youth within the party, not an older generation’s status quo. They want a change in America, and a change in the Democratic Party.

Mike Connery, who blogs about millennial politics at Future Majority, said that younger, wired voters are now at the core of Democratic politics:

Barack Obama may be riding the momentum of a caucus win into New Hampshire, but the real winner in tonight’s Iowa caucus was young voters.

It’s been a long and rocky road for young voters – in the media and in the party – For four years, the media has declared (incorrectly) that young voters were the downfall of Howard Dean, whose over-reliance on an “unreliable demographic” ushered in his defeat in the 2004 caucus. This, despite the fact that youth turnout at the caucus increased that year. For the last year, we’ve heard how Obama’s strategy was foolhardy, and even from the campaign we heard that the youth vote would be “icing on the cake.”

It turns out, it was the cake.

Within the Democratic caucus, more than 46,000 young people participated, and young voters comprised 22% of all caucus-goer – a major increase from four years ago. Connery takes this as a sign:

Young voters are increasingly moving in the direction of Democrats, and tonight, the Obama campaign – thanks to a savvy youth operation that reached out on Facebook and MySpace, at high schools and on college campuses – was able to capitalize on that to attain victory. His win confirms what many have been saying for years now: young people will vote if you pay attention to the, speak to their issues, and reach out. New technologies can certainly help make that initial connection, yet it’s still good old fashioned face to face politicking – peer to peer organizing – that makes the difference. Years ago, when young people began voting Republican during the Reagan Era, Democrats stopped asking young voters to participate. Tonight’s victory shows what individual candidates, and the Democratic Party stand to gain by courting today’s young voters.

Republican blogger Patrick Ruffini, meanwhile, decided to experiment with Twitter, to see if the short-messaging social tool could stay ahead of the results/spin curve during last night’s action.

When I first floated the idea of collecting Iowa Caucus results through the microblogging social network Twitter, I wasn’t sure what to expect. Iowa is a small state, and not particularly known for tech-savviness. Would I find anyone willing to whip out their phone in the middle of a caucus and text in the results?

Result? Affirmative. Ruffini, who organized his Twitter group over at the excellent techPresident blog, found that early on the Twitterstream had a clear message: “Very shortly after 7 p.m. central time, all the reports were pointing in a single direction: a big night for Barack Obama.” That was ahead of the TV networks, who were still vaguely talking about entrance polls.

TechPresident also keeps those running lists of friends at the big networks and they turned out to be pretty damned predictive of the Iowa results: Obama has the most Facebook friends on the Democratic side, while Internet phenom Paul does on the GOP side. Number two for the Republicans? Huckabee. I’ve said (and still believe) that the idea of an “Internet President” is far-fetched, but the numbers do show who does the best of organizing and whose followers do the best judge of recruiting other followers.

Caucus Quandary: Does Ron Paul’s Online Brilliance Translate into Votes?

Ron Paul presents a contradiction to those who believe a totally-wired, socially-networked population will change politics and how we elect candidates. The libertarian Republican Congressman from Texas has been a true gadfly in the GOP race – contesting the legitimacy of the Iraq war while calling for the virtual end to the large Federal government as we know it. And he’s raised more money online that any candidate in either party, keying huge online efforts around Guy Fawkes Night and the anniversary of the Boston Tea Party to highlight his anti-government theme of rebellion. Paul is one of only two candidates to raise $20 million in the final quarter of 2007 – Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton were the others.

And yet Paul is decidedly an outsider in the GOP race, hated by the establishment and dropped from the next Fox television Republican dabate, even as his polls numbers creep into double-digits for the first time – and he wins the “MySpace primary” on the GOP side, putting himself on equal footting with young people a Democratic superstar Barack Obama. Indeed, although the Democratic candidates had much stronger online social network and netroots operations over the last year- Hillary Clinton’s was the strongest, but Chris Dodd’s was very good as well – the Republicans’ top tier has no one who can match Paul’s effort.

Yet if you believe the polls, the votes aren’t there. As the 2008 election kicks off tonight in Iowa, I’m thinking about politics from the CauseWired perspective. ComputerWorld’s Heather Havenstein has an excellent article today on the Web 2.0 efforts of this year’s crop of candidates:

But will the number of Facebook “friends” a candidate has amassed or the number of YouTube video views that a campaign tallies really matter in the election? The answer, according to experts watching the first presidential campaign in the Web 2.0 world, is yes and no.

On the social networks, it’s the so-called change or outsider candidates who rule the “friend” wars – Paul and Obama are the big leaders on Facebook and MySpace. Tonight, he start to see if friends also caucus.

The Myth of the ‘Internet President’

Ah, good old 1996 – the first of our “wired” national elections. Bill Clinton versus Bob Dole, with special guest appearances by Ross Perot, Pat Buchanan, and Lamar Alexander. The information superhighway, online debate transcripts, participatory democracy, candidates on email – and all that jazz. We were so smart then.

Fast forward to the 2008 cycle. The campaigns are now super-wired, with vast email lists, major online contributions, multiple blogs, social networks, viral videos – the works. Yet, we’re no closer to choosing the “Internet President” than we were in 1996. TechPresident has done a super job of covering the race from a CauseWired point of view – which candidates have best virtual field operations, best digital media strategies, best penetration on Facebook and MySpace and the like.

But that doesn’t mean that the best-wired candidates are the technology candidates. So I found the efforts at TechCrunch to endorse “The First Tech President” kind of quaint, in a way – and so reminiscent of those mid-90s days:

TechCrunch wants to provide a voice for digital policy and technology issues in the upcoming U.S. Presidential election, and so we’ve decided to hold our own political primaries online.

A noble effort, and it’s a good think for Silicon Valley types to pay more attention to politics beyond their usual knee-jerk libertarian views as a business community. But no convention delegates come that “primary” and it’s very unlikely that the results will spur actual voters.

Besides, it seems to me the candidates, especially on the Democratic side (with due respect to online fundraising phenomenon Ron Paul), have moved way beyond hankering for that label – they’re not just pontificating on the importance of technology to the American economy. They’re some of the savviest consumers of media technology in the world. The campaign of the non-traditional Republican Paul, with his vast army of unpaid but highly-wired campaign supporters, pretty much defines the power of social networks in national politics; but the campaigns of Hillary Clinton, John Edwards and – to a lesser respect – Barack Obama also seem to really understand the tools of the network, and use them to their best advantage.

So with respect to TechCrunch for a decent idea, I think the notion of the first “tech president” in 2008 is antiquated. Don’t look behind any more for the politicians in their adoption and use of interconnected digital networks, look around you – or look farther down the road.