TOPICS > Politics

Examining Social Media Pressure on Santorum, Campaign Culture on Pinterest

April 5, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
As part of an ongoing series on how candidates and surrogates are using social media this election season, Margaret Warner and journalists Lauren Ashburn and Howard Kurtz of the Daily Download discuss how Ann Romney and President Obama have used the virtual bulletin board Pinterest to reach out to voters, especially female ones.

JEFFREY BROWN: And finally, our second media story, the Daily Download.

Margaret Warner takes us through it.

MARGARET WARNER: It’s been a lively week in politics and it’s time to turn to our regular look at how the presidential campaign is playing out in social media and on the Web.

And for that, we’re joined again by two journalists from the new website Daily Download. Lauren Ashburn is the site’s editor in chief, formerly with USA Today Live and Gannett Broadcasting. And Howard Kurtz is Newsweek’s Washington bureau chief and host of CNN’s “Reliable Sources.”

And welcome back.

HOWARD KURTZ: Thank you.


MARGARET WARNER: So let’s start with the top campaign news this week, which is of course Mitt Romney sweeping all three primaries.

Now, the mainstream media, the tenor of the coverage has been really on Romney as the all-but-inevitable nominee, and really the likely matchup with President Obama. Is that what you’re seeing and reading on the conservative and Republican websites and blogs?

HOWARD KURTZ: I had thought, Margaret, that with the pundits basically kind of shooing or trying — attempting to shoo Rick Santorum out of the race, that a hearty band of his supporters would take to social media and demand that that’s not the case.

But on Twitter, the overwhelming majority of messages were in fact kind of denigrating or ridiculing Santorum. One person wrote, bye-bye, Ricky. And another person wrote, “Rick Santorum staying in this campaign is like me hanging on to my Mega Millions ticket.”

So he’s not getting a lot of love, at least on Twitter.

MARGARET WARNER: So is — are you seeing a shift really on certain Web sites calling on Santorum to gracefully withdraw?

HOWARD KURTZ: I have either seen pundits and commentators and columnists calling on him to withdraw or saying it’s irrelevant what he does because we in the press are just kind of declaring this over, and he can try to win his home state of Pennsylvania, but lots of luck.

LAUREN ASHBURN: I’ve also seen today especially as we’re heading into the Easter weekend and he’s pulling back from the campaign that a lot of people on Twitter and on Facebook are saying well, you know, when you come out of three days, good luck in gaining that momentum again.

And there’s really sort of a strong feeling like he’s hurting himself by taking the holiday.

MARGARET WARNER: Another story or another development that seems to be attracting a lot of attention is this gender gap that’s been registered between President Obama and Mitt Romney.

I think the Gallup had it at something like 18 points. You all have looked at a website that both campaigns are using to try to appeal to women voters called Pinterest.


MARGARET WARNER: What is Pinterest?

LAUREN ASHBURN: Well, you’re interested in pinning.

Pinning is putting pictures up on a virtual photo board. It’s a new social media website. And you pin the pictures that you like. And they could be food.

HOWARD KURTZ: . . . popular.

LAUREN ASHBURN: Oh, it’s very popular. It can be food, all these different things — 17.8 million users — take look at the graphic here — are on it.

Most of them, Margaret, are female, more than 90 percent. I saw one statistic from TechCrunch say it was 97 percent.

HOWARD KURTZ: That explains why I don’t quite get it.


LAUREN ASHBURN: And this is just now or all the time?

MARGARET WARNER: And this was. . .

MARGARET WARNER: . . . February. It’s even bigger now.

HOWARD KURTZ: In February, right. Now, it’s been around about three years, but look at that growth rate, 52 percent.

LAUREN ASHBURN: And that was in February, in February alone.

MARGARET WARNER: Well, show us how the campaigns are trying to use it.

LAUREN ASHBURN: Take a look at this picture right here.

Ann has 12 different boards.

MARGARET WARNER: This is Ann Romney.

LAUREN ASHBURN: This is Ann Romney, correct.

She is the one who is driving this Pinterest account, and it really does have a personal flavor. You see, she posted picture of Mitt with the grandchildren, and there are lots of other pictures of him very casual to get rid of the stiff image that he’s had.

HOWARD KURTZ: Reading to grandchildren, the kind of behind-the-scenes family photos that it is easy for those of us in the news business to kind of dismiss as hokey, but I think really does serve to show us a different side of Mitt Romney. And who better to provide that than his wife?

LAUREN ASHBURN: And another board that she has, recipes.

This recipe right here is for butternut squash soup. And it’s from her sister-in-law, Mary. And so then different people can post comments underneath this, and then they can re-pin these photos to their wall.

HOWARD KURTZ: This is the thing I like about Pinterest, is the mouthwatering pictures of the food. That caught my eye.


LAUREN ASHBURN: Oh, that’s it. That’s what the guy gets.



MARGARET WARNER: Now, they’re also using it for video purposes, to post video?


Look at this video. We’ll show this to you in just one second here. But it’s an amazing video of Ann Romney. It’s a love letter to her husband on their anniversary.

ANN ROMNEY, wife of Mitt Romney: My 16th birthday party was when Mitt and I really became sort of an item. And we had maybe been dating for about three weeks before that, but I think we were starting to fall in love. Mitt helped plan it. It was — it was just a — sort of the beginning of our romance.

HOWARD KURTZ: Now, Margaret, no network would air that if it was submitted by the campaign. But you can circumvent the mainstream media by going to Pinterest, reaching these women voters.

And, by the way, there’s a recipe for Mitt’s meat loaf.

LAUREN ASHBURN: Yes, there was. Everybody’s calling it Mitt loaf. It’s actually meat loaf cakes that he loves.

HOWARD KURTZ: But that’s kind of touching and I think would appeal to a lot of women potential voters who love this website.

LAUREN ASHBURN: Right. It’s very true.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, how is the Obama campaign using it?

LAUREN ASHBURN: A little bit differently.

It’s managed by the campaign. Ann Romney’s seems to be much more managed by her.

HOWARD KURTZ: Got her voice.

LAUREN ASHBURN: Right. It’s very much her voice. But this is very advocacy-oriented.

HOWARD KURTZ: And Barack Obama’s not personally doing the pinning. Is he asking Michelle to do it for him?

LAUREN ASHBURN: I think he’s running the free world, but I could be wrong.



LAUREN ASHBURN: So take a look at this one right here. This is one of the boards. He has about seven right now. This was just posted a few weeks ago called Faces of Change.

This is a picture of a woman whose life was saved because of the Affordable. . .


LAUREN ASHBURN: . . . Care Act, right.

And so they have lots of pictures of women and men under this who have benefited from the legislation and the work that the administration has done.

HOWARD KURTZ: In addition, there are behind-the-scenes photos of the president meeting with ordinary voters that give you a nice feeling.

LAUREN ASHBURN: Oh, I have one of those.

HOWARD KURTZ: Let’s take a look at it.

LAUREN ASHBURN: Let’s look at it. Here we go.

HOWARD KURTZ: I’m not surprised. There we go. I’m not surprised. This is a very technologically savvy White House that uses a lot of social media, a lot of websites to convey the message visually as well as in text. And isn’t there some sort of contest going on?

LAUREN ASHBURN: Well, it’s interesting. Margaret and I were talking about this earlier, how they’re using this site not just to give information, but to get information from people.

And so this right here was a contest, win dinner with the Obamas.

MARGARET WARNER: For a small contribution?

LAUREN ASHBURN: For a small — so you click on the link. You see this, and then you click on the link. And it goes

And then they say, come on, join us, make a $3 contribution, and you too could have dinner. But this contest is closed.

HOWARD KURTZ: And then they have your email.

MARGARET WARNER: But is it fair to say that at least when it comes to the culture of this Web site, that what the Romney campaign is doing is more in keeping with that culture?


What I love about Pinterest — and I tried to get this guy to join a long time ago, but he said it wasn’t worth it — is that it’s very picture-oriented. And there are no ads. And you can see pictures of Paris, France. You can see pictures of people’s flowers. You can just feel what people are interested in.

And it’s not so much join my group, give me money, all that kind of stuff.

HOWARD KURTZ: The first family is already very well-known.

What Ann Romney is doing through Pinterest in another way — she’s the looser of the two — is painting a much softer and more human picture of Mitt Romney, which is probably what he needs right now.

MARGARET WARNER: So getting — trying to get America or at least these women voters to see the Romney family the way they see the Obama family.

HOWARD KURTZ: He’s not just a candidate in a suit.

LAUREN ASHBURN: Or a stiff candidate, right.

MARGARET WARNER: So, more to come next time.

Thank you both, Howie Kurtz and Lauren Ashburn.



JEFFREY BROWN: Media organizations are also using Pinterest. And that includes the NewsHour. You can find a link to our Pinterest page on our website.