It’s been appropriately dubbed the 2012 Social Media Election for good reason. With the undeniable power of social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook, both President Barack Obama and challenger Mitt Romney have utilized each platform to generate millions of mentions and endorsements.
Facebook and Twitter have also brought each candidate’s achievements and blunders to the forefront perhaps more prominently than any other time in American history. With up-to-minute fact checking via sites like Politifact and FactCheck.org, candidates have endured several months under the social media microscope.
According to the Pew Research Center, of the 60 percent of American adults using either Facebook or Twitter, roughly 66 percent of those users—or 39 percent of all American adults—“have done at least one of eight civic or political activities with social media.” Facebook and Twitter have become a springboard for political discussion, whether it’s to encourage others to vote, take a stand on the most pressing issues, or promote material from their preferred candidate.
Not too long ago, newspapers and journalists served as the Watchdogs of Democracy, carefully investigating every waking move of those running for or already in office. Now it’s more than scoring high marks from political pundits on CNN or Fox News.
Even the term 24-hour news cycle is starting to lose its luster among the mainstream media.
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“It’s a 140-character news cycle,” said Adam Sharp, leader of Twitter’s government, news, and social innovation team.
From humorous to awe-inspiring, here is a list detailing some of the most memorable moments — the 140-character variety — of the 2012 Presidential Election leading up to Election Day.
No. 1 — “This seat’s taken”
A surprise appearance by one of the nation’s most revered actors had America all atwitter following the final day of the Republican National Convention in Tampa. Hollywood icon Clint Eastwood’s bizarre, impromptu speech was buzzing on Twitter at the rate of 7,044 tweets per minute, according to the official Twitter blog.
Eastwood rambled (crazily at times) for nearly 11 minutes, speaking directly to a stool occupied by an imaginary President Obama.
“I remember 3½ years ago when Mr. Obama won the election and though I wasn’t a big supporter, I was watching that night when he was having that thing and they were talking about hope and change. ‘Yes we can’ and it was dark and outdoors and it was nice, people were lighting candles, they were saying ‘I just thought this is great.’ Everybody’s crying, Oprah was crying. And I was even crying,” Eastwood quipped as he looked at the empty stool, evoking laughter among the throng of Romney supporters.
Eastwood was off to a great start, but it was all downhill from there.
“Clint Eastwood’s speech tonight brought new meaning to the good, the bad and the ugly … but mostly just the bad and the ugly,” said Obama campaign spokesperson Lis Smith.
Eastwood’s disastrous speech made headlines the following day, somewhat overshadowing Romney himself. The Obama team capitalized with a stirring move of its own, however, responding with a picture sent from the @BarackObama Twitter account of a rear look at him sitting in a chair marked “the President” with the caption: “This seat’s taken.”
The tweet quickly went viral and received the most retweets during the RNC. As of Monday, the tweet boasted more than 55,000 retweets and 22,000 favorites. If you’re an Obama supporter, you were probably thrilled to see the POTUS flex his mettle as Commander-in-chief with this simple yet efficient jibe via Twitter.
No. 2 — Memorable speeches, debates
I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the awe-inspiring speeches, save for Eastwood’s, which took place during both the republican and democratic national conventions. Romney generated roughly 14,289 tweets per minute near the tail end of his RNC speech.
But that number paled in comparison to what transpired during the DNC. President Barack Obama’s acceptance speech garnered record-setting numbers with 52,756 tweets per minute. The final day accounted for approximately four million Tweets, near equal to the total number from the entire RNC.
Courtesy of Twitter
Prior to that, though, it was the First Lady that kick-started the event in grand fashion. Her memorable speech peaked at 28,003 tweets per minute, nearly double of Romney’s 13,289. Her speech attracted more than 22,000 TPMs when she said, “We’ve got so much more to do.” Former President Bill Clinton’s speech peaked at 22,087 tweets per minute.
What’s more, a tweet from the President’s Twitter account (slugged: Michelle’s biggest fans were watching from home) pictured Obama flanked by his two daughters, Malia and Sasha, watching the speech from inside the White House. The tweet, which portrayed the POTUS as a lovable family man, picked up 16,472 retweets.
Weeks later at the first of three presidential debates, Obama and Romney’s faceoff sparked a record-setting 10 million tweets, including more than 250,000 tweets mentioning Sesame Street’s Big Bird thanks to Romney’s assertion that he wants to cut federal funding for PBS. The creation of parody accounts such as @SadBigBird and @BigBirdRomney ensued.
No. 3 — “You’re full of sh*t”
One of Romney’s more recent targeted attacks on Obama focuses on Chrysler’s alleged consideration to outsource all of its Jeep production to China, detailed in this TV ad. The Detroit-based automaker received a $10.5 billion federal taxpayer bailout, and subsequently Italian automaker Fiat took control of the company.
According to Forbes, while Fiat intends to build Jeeps in China, it is “not allowed to tap any Chrysler funds.” Nonetheless, the campaign ad spawned this awesome Twitter exchange between Donald Trump and Chrysler vice president Ralph Gilles:
Gilles later apologized for the strong words in a later tweet, but said, “Lies are just that, lies.”
But much thanks to Twitter, we were treated to a heated tussle between the two businessmen. Trump responded by later tweeting that Gilles, in fact, is “full of it” and linked to a story featured in the Washington Examiner highlighting Jeep’s plans to shift production to China.
No. 4 — #AreYouBetterOff
Governor Romney was the first candidate to fund a Promoted Trending Topic on Twitter entitled #Believe in America. The RNC did so as well by promoting the topic: #AreYouBetterOff. The tweet was a clear shot at the Obama Administration and prompted voters to ask themselves if they were better off than they were the day Obama took office four years ago. Conceivably, the answer would be an emphatic no, and voters would follow suit by supporting Romney.
Courtesy of TheVerge.com
Instead, however, the campaign backfired on the RNC. Obama faithful seized the hashtag and went to town with it. Certainly that’s not what the RNC intended to happen, but the promoted tweet incensed Obama supporters and fueled a barrage of tweets aimed against Romney and Co.
Certainly that wasn’t end of promoted tweets for either party—failed promoted tweets, that is. Obama’s #Forward2012 tweet took a similar thrashing.
Courtesy of Mashable
Less horses and bayonets, more tweets
If it came strictly down to social media, then Barry O has a commanding lead over Governor Romney in terms of Twitter followers (21.7 million/1.6 million) and Facebook fans (31.7 million/11.8 million). Today, Twitter will be awfully busy as Americans flock to the polls and the votes are tallied.
Twitter has its own Political Index page which measures the sentiment of Twitter users’ feelings about each candidate. There is a special #Election2012 event page for Election Day 2012 as well. And judging by the last few months, there won’t be much of a shortage of tweets.