Barack Obama’s campaign manager, Jim Messina, is working to solidify a strong student supporter-base much like that in the 2008 campaign. He is sweeping across the country’s college campuses in partnership with the Students For Obama group encouraging college students to get out the vote. The new plan is to revitalize this support through an intensive social media campaign using college students as the foot soldiers. But is there still the excitement there?
A Students For Obama campaign kick-off event at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis featured the campaign manager and former deputy chief-of-staff explaining what the 2012 campaign can look like for college students. The campaign is looking to keep what was working with social media in ’08 and hang on to that for dear life.
Messina and the other two speakers. bona fide liberals Congressman Keith Ellison (MN) and DNC Chairman and Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, made it clear what is expected from college students supporting Obama: Make your voice heard.
If Messina has his way, Twitter, Facebook, and other popular social media sites will be heavily utilized as tools to show support for Obama and act as weapons to counteract attacks against him. Essentially it could create a grassroots PR campaign for Obama.
“When you hear people saying Obama is Kenyan, Obama is an Islamic fundamentalist, Obama is a socialist, Obama is this and that, fight back,” Messina said. “Post responses on Twitter, post on Facebook. Do whatever you need to do to show your support for him.”
In addition to traditional social media platforms, the Obama campaign will be implementing “truth teams”. Two million supporters will be recruited to debunk false myths about Obama and give automatic response to negative coverage.
The Messina strategy of putting publicity in the hands of supporters through social media shows a greater trend developing in politics. It creates a strong grassroots following with much less effort. It also brings Obama’s message to young people’s home turf: the internet. But this strategy could also take the control of out the Obama camp’s hands. Hoards of supporters offering their messages on such a large stage could end in a lack of cohesion and unnecessary confusion.
While there are many unknowns as to how a crusade of young students using social media will battle Republicans, it is sure to be interesting. The plan might just be the final answer to how candidates will use the internet to their advantage.
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