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GOP surpasses Dems on Twitter
Republicans said technology can help the party bring in more people to build its small minority into a larger force.
“I’d like 100 million people to get the talking points,” said Rep. Mike Pence of Indiana, chairman of the House Republican Conference.
He noted that he recently held his first online news conference and bragged that he has the “ninth most friends on Facebook” among members of Congress, “And I’d like more friends.”
Mr. Obama remains one of the most popular people on the Internet — enjoying more Facebook friends (5.4 million), Twitter followers (281,651) and YouTube views (more than 3 million have watched WhiteHouse.gov videos) — than any other politician.
However, as Republicans make up for lost time, technology problems have tripped up the White House. The e-mail system has gone down, and Mr. Obama broke a campaign promise to post bills online five days before signing them in part because of lackluster tech tools.
Though the White House is lagging, the Obama political arm remains in top tech form.
The new Organizing for America project, housed at the Democratic National Committee, sent the president’s 13-million-strong e-mail list a YouTube clip of his recent economic remarks before a prime-time news conference, urging them to “Make sure that your voice is heard in this process.”
The group is using Americans’ personal stories of job loss during the recession to build public support for the $787 billion economic stimulus plan.
As the White House has worked to get up to speed, congressional Republicans are deploying war-room campaign-style tactics, quickly clipping YouTube hits that advance their message or responding to the president’s comments in real time.
When Mr. Obama said last week at his Fort Myers, Fla., town hall that the stimulus was imperfect because “it was produced in Washington,” House Republicans clipped the comment and responded before the town hall had ended.
“A primary goal is making sure everything we do somehow translates into a link on the Internet,” said Joe Pounder, strategic communications director for House Minority Whip Eric Cantor, Virginia Republican.
Mr. Pounder, 25, sent out that clip from the Florida town hall in the same way he used YouTube for direct political combat as part of Team McCain.
“You can’t just highlight what someone says with a transcript, you have to show them saying it,” he said. “On the chance it goes viral on the Internet, as opposed to 100 reporters seeing it, you could possibly spark enough interest for a million people to see it.”
The idea is to have a mind-set that everything Republicans do, even the most traditional events such as news conferences, has a new-media component “to help you echo your own message,” said Mr. Pounder, who sends reporters a joke-laden and hyperlink-heavy “Morning Whip-Up” similar to what he blasted out for the McCain campaign in 2008.
Matt Lira, director of new media for Mr. Cantor, had some fun posting a video using Aerosmith’s “Back in the Saddle” to champion the number zero — as in the number of Republicans who supported the “Democrats’ wasteful spending bill.”
About the Author
Christina Bellantoni is a White House correspondent for The Washington Times in Washington, D.C., a post she took after covering the 2008 Democratic presidential campaigns. She has been with The Times since 2003, covering state and Congressional politics before moving to national political beat for the 2008 campaign. Bellantoni, a San Jose native, graduated from UC Berkeley with ...
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