- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 11, 2010

THE FRIEND FACTOR

Lady Gaga recently beat out President Obama in the number of Facebook “friends” she accumulated - 11.9 million for the chanteuse versus 10.4 million for the president. Indeed, social media now provide a gaudy new gauge of public favorability. Numbers fly fast and furious, the access and discovery process is instant and the protocols scanty. Inside the Beltway finds, for instance, that Sarah Palin has won over 1.8 million friends while Vice President Joseph R. Biden Jr. has around 240,000. And in the battle between former presidents, we discover that George W. Bush has 217,550 friends while Bill Clinton has 347,838.

But wait. Conservative hopeful Marco Rubio, running as a Republican for the U.S. Senate seat in Florida, is perhaps the first candidate in the 2010 campaign to do the math and proclaim strategic advantage of his Facebook standing. Mr. Rubio says he’s trounced rival Gov. Charlie Crist in the get-friends race, with nearly four times as many online buddies. Mr. Crist is not the only one who was vanquished, however.

Mr. Rubio has a total of 102,292 Facebook friends and counting - compared with 26,790 who signed on for Mr. Crist and 99,933 who “friended” the entire Democratic Party. Other comparative stats: 17,392 favor his Democratic rival Rep. Kendrick B. Meek and 442 like Senate hopeful Jeff Greene. And on the larger front, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has 22,235 pals while 10,926 have friended Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid. Mr. Rubio also topped the Daily Kos, with 5,228 friends.

“With his grass-roots momentum surging, Rubio currently has more Facebook friends than any other 2010 U.S. Senate candidate,” says his spokesman Alex Burgos.

HOLA AMERICA

The federal lawsuit against Arizona’s immigration law - which takes effect in 17 days - continues to grow in stature, with Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. leading the charge. Critics say the suit is just an Obama administration tactic to woo Hispanics. But there could be collateral damage.

Opinion polls reveal that a majority of Americans oppose the lawsuit, and many favor Arizona-style immigration legislation for their own states. Most recently, Gallup found that half of Americans overall oppose the lawsuit while a third favor it. Partisan sentiments abound: Eight out of 10 Republicans oppose the lawsuit, 56 percent of Democrats favor it.

“This means the Obama administration is sailing against the tide of public opinion in its efforts to block the law,” says Gallup director Frank Newport.

“Political implications of the lawsuit are difficult to predict with precision at this juncture. Republican leaders will hope that reaction against the lawsuit generates more support for GOP candidates running on an anti-administration platform, while Democrats may hope that the lawsuit solidifies support among Hispanic voters in key congressional districts and states with close Senate and gubernatorial races,” Mr. Newport says.

THE MCCAIN BREW

First insurgent, then maverick. Observers say Sen. John McCain is now seeking “tea party” credentials to counter rival J.D. Hayworth for the U.S. Senate seat in Arizona. It’s ironic, though. In 2008, it was a jaunty Mr. McCain who introduced America to running mate Sarah Palin, who has since evolved into a bona fide, straight-talking tea party goddess.

“When does being a maverick turn into a shameless flip-flopper? Pretty much about now,” says the Observer’s Paul Harris, who adds that Mr. McCain’s liberal attitudes toward immigration reform, which came to light several years ago, have not been forgotten.

“It is hard to imagine that he was once seen as a politician who stuck to his beliefs and always put a good policy ahead of self-interested politics,” Mr. Harris adds in the British newspaper.

BUMPER PATROL

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