After spending millions of dollars, crafting its message for months and preparing speeches, video and multimedia for the Republican National Convention, its greatest opportunity to make the case for electing Mitt Romney in the November 6th presidential election, the GOP found itself upstaged by an empty chair last week.

Intending to introduce some Hollywood pizzazz into the proceedings, organizers gave film legend Clint Eastwood the opportunity to make the case for Romney on the last night of the convention, when the former Massachusetts governor would make his big speech and accept the party nomination.

But Eastwood gave an unusual performance, conversing with an imaginary US President Barack Obama “sitting” in an empty chair and going seven minutes over the five allotted by the RNC.

Viral Video of the Week:


For all the planning, the high marks for Romney’s speech, and the introduction of some of the most effective rhetoric for giving Obama the boot, Eastwood and the empty chair overshadowed the conversation on television, in the papers, and on social media. Obama’s snarky Twitter response, retweeted over 52,000 times, was the most viral Tweet of the whole convention, according to Politico.

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It took only minutes before somebody created a mocking Twitter account of the Eastwood affair, @InvisibleObama, which managed to pick up a 67,000 person following. 




But despite the distraction, the convention gave Romney a much-needed boost in the polls. Throughout the affair, the official hashtag #GOP2012 popped into Twitter’s list of trending terms (it garnered 185,000 mentions on the night of Romney’s speech alone) alongside references to major speakers like Ann Romney and VP pick Paul Ryan (The Washington Post provided a nifty interactive video tracking Tweets alongside Ryan’s speech). @MittRomney even surpassed one million Twitter followers, a major milestone (though still far short of @BarackObama’s 19.2 million).

Not to be completely sidelined, Obama continued his foray into the world of social media, becoming the first sitting US president to host a half-hour chat on Reddit, a site that lets users post links and messages, then comment and vote on each others’ posts to rank them. Over the course of a half-hour, Obama answered questions on the site, bringing in 3.8 million page views, eliciting 22,000 comments and overwhelming the servers several times.

Obama scored extra points when he said the experience was “NOT BAD,” a reference to an odd Internet meme about the US president and the first lady.

As the Democrats prepare to make the case for a second Obama term at their own convention in Charlotte, North Carolina on Tuesday, they will surely do their best to make sure everyone stays on message and script to avoid a Clint Eastwood moment. However, it’s unclear whether they can prevent Obama from being upstaged as well. The Democrats are planning to deploy their own secret weapon at the convention, a man who has a history of stealing the spotlight: Bill Clinton. Assuming Clinton doesn’t speak to any inanimate objects, however, the Democrats are banking that memories of the Clinton presidency and the economic boom it accompanied will last in voters’ minds.

#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.

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