TOPICS > Politics

For Campaigns, Online Outreach on Libya Attacks, Conventions, Get-Out the Vote

September 13, 2012 at 12:00 AM EDT
Margaret Warner talks to Daily Download's Lauren Ashburn and Howard Kurtz for the social media wrap on Mitt Romney's criticism of President Obama and the White House's response to the attacks on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi. Plus, a recap on the campaigns' social media usage during the Democratic and Republican conventions.

JEFFREY BROWN: And we close with tonight’s politics segment, a look at how the campaigns are using the Internet to attract voters.

Margaret Warner has that.

MARGARET WARNER: We continue our regular look at the campaign as it plays out in social media and on the Web.

For that, we’re joined again by two journalists from Daily Download, Lauren Ashburn and Howard Kurtz.

And welcome back to you both.


MARGARET WARNER: Let’s start with the tragedy yesterday, the attacks on the U.S. Embassy and consulate in Egypt and Libya.

And, as we all know, Mitt Romney made a couple of comments, one on the Web the night before, and then one yesterday in person, essentially criticizing the Obama administration for having sympathized with the attackers or apologized.

What was the reaction in the social media sphere?

LAUREN ASHBURN: On Twitter, the event itself with the hashtag “Libya,” which categorizes the event itself, there were 26,000 tweets within 24 hours.

Now, to Mitt Romney specifically, they had the hashtag “Romneyfail,” “Romneyshambles,” “unfitMitt,” and there were negative tweets as well.

HOWARD KURTZ, “Newsweek”/CNN: Just to give you the flavor, Margaret, Chris Rock, the comedian, tweeted: “I will give Mitt Romney credit for this. He lost the election before I even got out of bed this morning.”

But a lot of the conservatives re-tweeted this line: “Just remember, Obama condemned Romney before he condemned the terrorists,” which is not quite chronologically accurate, but has been bouncing around the Web.

MARGARET WARNER: So you’re saying that the conservative social media pushed back on this one?

LAUREN ASHBURN: Yes, they did.

HOWARD KURTZ: Very much so. And how about the campaign itself?

LAUREN ASHBURN: Well, the campaign itself, there were no Facebook posts, but on Mitt Romney’s blog, he put a two-sentence statement condemning the Obama administration for its response, saying that it was disgraceful, what he had done.

And then he’s also posted other things on his blog, including some positive coverage from The Wall Street Journal and an article from Liz Cheney, the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney.

HOWARD KURTZ: So, doubling and tripling down.

MARGARET WARNER: Yes, so continuing it.

Now, this is the first time we have seen you since — on air since the conventions. What was notable about the conventions in terms of the way campaigns used social media to try to amplify what they were doing?

HOWARD KURTZ: Well, as an alternative to the network coverage and the PBS coverage and the cable coverage, the Democrats, for example, live-streamed, meaning broadcast online, the whole convention hosted by Kal Penn, the actor from “Harold & Kumar,” former White House aide who wasn’t trying to be fair and balanced.

Republicans put their convention feed on YouTube, so it was a way of providing their followers, their fans with an alternative way of viewing the events in Tampa and in Charlotte.

MARGARET WARNER: But did they try to shape what people saw or it was simply a live stream, other than the program you mentioned?

HOWARD KURTZ: On the Democratic feed, there was commentary and there was a roundtable afterwards.


HOWARD KURTZ: You know, they said very nice things about Obama and Bill Clinton.

LAUREN ASHBURN: And some of it was funny and funny, and it wasn’t all serious.

HOWARD KURTZ: And, obviously, a lot of media people were live-streaming as well. We did it at The Daily Beast. I know you did it at PBS. It’s kind of the new television, in a way.

MARGARET WARNER: And were there regular, I assume, tweets and…


MARGARET WARNER: From the campaigns.

LAUREN ASHBURN: It was a very robust time.

And, actually, I found this interesting, that Twitter and Facebook were both present at the campaign and had huge display monitors showing how many tweets and where the peak of the tweets were depending on the speeches. And it was very popular.

HOWARD KURTZ: Sixteen million convention-related tweets, shattering all previous records.

MARGARET WARNER: So what should we be braced for or prepared for in these final eight weeks we’re now — seven-and-a-half weeks?

LAUREN ASHBURN: Well, we have seen President Obama, late August, August 29, I believe, did a chat on a new social media site, or a social media site called Reddit.

And Reddit is a source of popular information where you can vote thumbs up or thumbs down. He put in there a link there to gotta — what is it, And within 24 hours, 25,000 people had registered to vote.

HOWARD KURTZ: Meanwhile, Paul Ryan, Mitt Romney’s running mate, has answered questions on a website called Quora. And he also did a hangout at Google headquarters in California. That’s where you talk to various supporters and people online, new technology. Obama has done — and Romney have done that as well.

MARGARET WARNER: Now, speaking of get-out-the-vote, there was this interesting study published in the journal “Nature” today that shows — seems to show that people are more likely to vote if they get a Facebook message that is signed on to by their friends saying they voted.

LAUREN ASHBURN: We have talked about this before, saying that Facebook and Twitter also are good at engaging people and their friends and emotions, and it’s a place to go where you take to heart more what your friends say than you do what an official would say.

MARGARET WARNER: Well, this was based on the 2010 elections, and they had a control group and so on.

But, I mean, what are the campaigns planning to do? This seems to be — if this is true, turns out to be for real, it will be a huge opportunity.

HOWARD KURTZ: Well, just to clarify, University of California at San Diego found that 340,000 more people, the researchers say, voted than would have otherwise.

Either they got information about, today is Election Day, here is your polling place, or a badge showing their friends had voted.

And that was real thing, the idea that friends can influence your behavior. So the campaigns obviously are targeting their friends, the people who like them on Facebook, in an effort to get out the vote.

And, of course, they have been doing it to raise money as well.

LAUREN ASHBURN: Well, and the real question is, is, will it sway the actual voting? Yes, you can get out the vote, but can you get someone to vote for you?

MARGARET WARNER: But getting your own vote out is half the game.

HOWARD KURTZ: That’s the thing. If you’re following a campaign on Facebook or Twitter or any other social site, you already like those people.

The question is, is, when it comes down to that day in November, are you going to get out to the polling place?

MARGARET WARNER: Well, we will have to leave it there, but, Howie and Lauren, thank you.

HOWARD KURTZ: Thank you.


MARGARET WARNER: And you can watch most big campaign speeches on the NewsHour’s YouTube page. Tonight, we will post Vice President’s Biden’s address to the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. And that speech will be put to the Amara community for translation into multiple languages.