A candidate’s strategic campaign dilemma is often how to attack opponents without appearing too negative to voters. The solution is usually to send out surrogates to do the candidate’s dirty campaigning for them, leaving the person whose name appears on the ballot to play “good cop.” With Rick Santorum finally bowing out of the GOP primary and Newt Gingrich bouncing a $500 check filing for the Utah Primary, presumed Republican rival Mitt Romney and US President Barack Obama let their surrogates loose on one another - via Twitter.
It began with Romney’s wife Ann, who increased her visibility in an attempt to help Mitt close the gender gap in his polls. Ann narrated a video, which Mitt tweeted to the masses, about the loveable, warm, family side of her husband, emphasizing how his “mischievous” and “naughty” pranks made him sometimes seem like a sixth son, not a dad.
Hoping to neutralize the Ann Romney threat and fight back against Mitt’s “mostly false” assertion that under Obama, 92.3% of jobs were lost to women, Democratic commentator Hilary Rosen told CNN that Ann was no expert on jobs because she had “never worked a day in her life.”
Viral video of the week:
Although Rosen meant that Ann had never worked at a job, her comment came across as saying that being a stay-at-home mother of five takes no work. Rosen was hit with an immediate backlash, including a condemnation from good cop Obama that “there’s no tougher job than being a mom” and “I don’t have a lot of patience for commentary about the spouses of political candidates.” Ann Romney, whose name trended to the top of Google’s hot search by the end of the week, responded to the controversy with her first-ever Tweet:
Tweet of the week:
Though she has only tweeted twice more since, Ann built up a following of over 35,000 in just four days.
Not to be left out of the Twitter fun, Vice President Joe Biden - who has been hitting the campaign trail hard for Obama in recent weeks - reactivated his own Twitter account for the 2012 campaign, amassing 65,000 followers. In addition to retweeting the US president and talking up the Buffett Rule, Biden took a cue from Ann Romney to show the softer side of the POTUS and VP, tweeting photos of the country’s top politicians playing with water guns.
But politics on Twitter are not just fun and games. Iowan Senator Charles Grassley learned the hard way this week that both style and substance can bring shame to Tweeters after he called the US president “stupid” on the social media site:
When Obama’s senior strategist David Axelrod shot back at Grassley, he focused less on the insult and more on his juvenile Twitter spelling and shorthand, so often used to cram thoughts into the 140 character limit:
Comedian Stephen Colbert took it a step further, releasing a series of Tweets tagged #igotthetweetslikegrassley and poking fun at the Senator’s unpolished Twitter style:
Finally, as if to prove the relevance of social media in modern politics, the real and virtual worlds crossed paths this week when Secretary of State Hillary Clinton submitted her own entry to last week’s viral meme “Texts From Hillary,” addressing its creators Adam Smith and Stacy Lambe.
After the Internet hit got them a face-to-face meeting with the US secretary of state herself, the two decided to call it a day, putting an official end to the meme instead of letting it fizzle into history. “As far as memes go – it has gone as far as it can go. Is it really possible to top a submission from the Secretary herself? No,” they wrote.
Clinton, who will remain off the campaign trail altogether this cycle, seemed to have learned her lesson on the ways of Internet cool. At the end of a long work day at the Summit of the Americas in Cartagena, Colombia, the Secretary let photographers snap photos of her out on the town at the city’s dance hotspot “Cafe Havanah,” tearing up the floor and swigging a beer. To borrow from Hamlet, the newest photos leave to the imagination, “What memes may come.”
#USelections2012 offers weekly insight into the US Presidential election through a social media lens, tracking candidates as they 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.