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#USelections2012: The Palin factor
By NIV ELIS
03/13/2012
This week: When it comes to social media, the GOP candidates are ‘Palin’ in comparison to the former VP nominee.
 
It may appear that there were no clear winners in last week’s Super Tuesday contest, the 10-state primary vote-a-thon that can make or break a campaign for a party nomination. Given that Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum each picked up a smattering of states, Newt Gingrich won one (his home state) and that Ron Paul doesn’t seem to mind losing over and over, it would be fair to say that the election simply cemented the confused status quo in the GOP nominating contest.

But make no mistake, there was a winner: Sarah Palin - and Twitter can prove it.

During an impromptu interview with CNN at an Alaska polling station, where she dropped by with hubby Todd to cast her ballot, the 2008 vice presidential nominee said she would be open to a run in 2016 and, shockingly, might even throw her hat back in the ring this year in the event of an “open convention.”

The inability of any one Republican candidate to take a decisive edge in the primaries creates  the possibility that none of them will have the 1,144 delegates needed to gain the nomination at the August GOP convention, meaning the remaining candidates will have to battle out it out there.  Asked if she would object to her name being thrown into the ring in such an event, Palin replied: "Anything is possible. I don't close any doors that perhaps would be open out there, so no, I wouldn't close that door. My plan is to be at that convention."

Within seconds, Palin was trending on Twitter, at a time when the actual candidates were nowhere to be found. In all of Super Tuesday, the number of tweets about Palin came ahead of Romeny and Paul, tied with Newt Gingrich, and were second only to Santorum tweets.

Could Palin, who floored so many with her debut speech at 2008’s convention, really make a last-minute sprint for the nation’s highest political prize despite saying she was not considering a run this year and publicly backing Gingrich? It wouldn’t be the first time the former Wasilla mayor “went rogue,” a fact that Americans were reminded of with the debut of HBO’s Game Change over the weekend.



The release of the film, based on a book of the same name about the 2008 campaign by political journalists John Heilemann and Mark Halperin, also caused a spike in searches for Palin. The fact that four-time Oscar-nominee Julianna Moore, who portrayed the ex-Alaska governor in the film, was on a media offensive promoting the film didn’t hurt either.

Never missing an opportunity to fight fire with fire, Palin tweeted a link to a different movie - one with a more pro-Palin perspective.

Tweet of the week:

Palin also had harsh words for US President Barack Obama this week. Adorned with a Jewish Star necklace during a Fox News interview, Palin accused Obama of “bringing us back...to days before the civil war, when, unfortunately, too many Americans believed that not all men were created equal.”

The subject of the criticism was a video of the US president back in his college days, offering support for a Prof. Derrick Bell, who went on hunger strike to protest the lack of African American and female representation among tenured staff.

The clip, which was released on Youtube by BuzzFeed's Andrew Kaczynski, was among the materials that blogger and media journalist Andrew Breitbart, before his untimely death, had compiled in an attempt to prove that Obama had not been properly vetted.

The video of the young Obama praising the professor quickly went viral, garnering over two million views within a few days of its release:

Viral video of the week:



Having broken the “Weinergate” story, which led Congressman Anthoney Weiner to step down after accidentally Tweeting dirty photos of himself to women, Breitbart was no stranger to exposing politicians through social media.

Not everyone thought the Obama video was quite so impressive though. The Atlantic’s David A. Graham said it demonstrated the downside of Breitbart’s legacy: “ a tendency to overhype non-stories.”

Whether or not the Harvard controversy sticks, Obama can look forward to at least a few more weeks of bruising primaries from his Republican rivals, who head back to the polls Tuesday in Alabama, Hawaii and Mississippi.

#USelections2012 offers weekly insight into the US Presidential election through a social media lens, showing how candidates try to reach 270 electoral votes in 140 characters or less.

The writer is a Breaking News editor and blogger at The Jerusalem Post. Read his blog ‘The Bottom Line’ here.
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