Monica’s Weblog

Just another weblog

All in the Family

Americans like to know that while politicians are interviewed by major publications and TV personalities, and meeting national and foreign leaders, that actually at the end of the day, they’re just like any other American. Remember that George W. Bush was favored in 2004 because many Americans said they felt like they could have a beer with him. They felt like he could relate to them on a personal level; he had that “likeability” factor.  


What is interesting I think though is how the candidates are using their relationships with family members in their campaign strategy to connect with the everyday American.


Just go to Barack Obama’s campaign site and the splash introduction page – the first page you see before clicking to access of the actual site – is not a photo of himself alone looking particularly presidential; it is a photo of him and his family sitting on the ground in a park with his daughters around him and his wife next to him. It’s a sweet photo, and one that strikes that personal, and important note within all Americans – “family is important to me.”



He did have an interview with People Magazine about what life is like at home for him and his wife, raising their two young daughters in the spotlight, and “That even on the campaign trail, this is a brood almost like any other, with set routines (chores!), boundaries ($1 allowance!) and playtimes (movie nights!).” Again, showing that he’s just like you and your family.




On McCain’s site, he has some family photos (albeit most in black and white), but they are part of the photo gallery, not the first page. Family life is much different in the McCain household, so he won’t get interviews like that either. While McCain’s children are older and prefer to stay out of the limelight, his 23-year old daughter Meghan keeps a blog about following her dad and mom on the campaign trail. And relating to the younger crowd could help McCain; she says that she reads Perez Hilton and shops at Target. So, McCain’s daughter is really ike any other.



However, no other family member is dissected more by the media than the wives of McCain and Obama. After all, one of them will become the next First Lady. New polling discussed by the Washington Post’s Chris Cillizza interestingly shows that while Michelle is more widely known and present on her husband’s presidential campaign, she was also less favored than Cindy, who is less visible on her husband’s campaign. Americans polled who were unable to provide sufficient information about Cindy McCain still favored her over Michelle Obama (maybe it’s because of those comments she made earlier this year though…)



So apparently it’s ok for a little mystery…


I have not forgotten about the last family member – the baby (or babies)! Obama has mentioned that win or lose, he will get his daughters a puppy after the campaign (and you can (of course!) vote on the one you think they should get). However, if pets could vote, they’d vote for McCain. An AP-Yahoo! News poll “found that pet owners favor McCain over Obama 42 percent to 37 percent, with dog owners particularly in McCain’s corner.”


One of the survey respondents said, “I think a person who owns a pet is a more compassionate person — caring, giving, trustworthy. I like pet owners,” said Janet Taylor of Plymouth, Mass.


Taylor and others would probably feel comfortable with McCain considering he’s almost got a zoo, including: Sam the English springer spaniel, Yorkshire terriers Lucy and Desi, Coco the mutt, turtles Cuff and Link, Oreo the black and white cat, a ferret, three parakeets and a sea of saltwater fish.


Americans like to know that their politicians are just like them, being able to relate to them on a personal level. Everybody’s got a bit of wacky in the family – even the presidential candidates. And Americans want to know just how wacky the families are. (remember Rudy Giuliani’s family drama? Or the worry over Bill Clinton’s role in Hillary’s campaign?) It would be a mistake to underestimate the power the family has in how Americans determine who to vote for.


It’s all in the messaging again. Family matters.  



You CAN Teach an Old Dog New Tricks!

Senator John McCain has infamously admitted that he does not use computers, because he does not know how to use them: 



Yikes! But he’s just like any other grandpa in America, asking his grandkids what this Internet thing is all about and beginning every sentence with “when I was your age…”, right? Actually, not really. Plenty of old folks throughout the nation are connected online, depending on how you view the statistics (found from CNN article). Pew Internet Project at the Pew Research Center found that “Only 35 percent of Americans over age 65 are online,” according to data compiled from April and May. “But when you account for factors like race, wealth and education, the picture changes dramatically. About three-quarters of white, college-educated men age over 65 use the Internet,” says Susannah Fox, director of the project. So when it comes to McCain, he’s actually out of the norm.


Seventy three percent of Americans use the Internet for the top three reasons: 1) e-mail, 2) informational searches, and 3) finding a map or driving directions. So since McCain has staff to do all of these things for him, what’s the big deal if he doesn’t use the Internet? Well while he doesn’t necessarily need to use it, it definitely doesn’t look too good. It puts him out of touch with the average American, almost making him seem like an alien. People spend hours online — for fun! If he can’t relate on a personal level, it’s harder to establish long-term relationships with Americans — which are vital in campaigns.


Since Florida is known as the retirement community of the nation, I was curious to find out what this demographic was doing online. One I liked, FloridaSeniors360, is “Designed to connect seniors and their families with resources when they need them most, the website also offers educational information on aging, common senior health care issues as well as retirement planning.” Life Done Right, a blog (reaching almost 10,000 people monthly, according to Quantcast), has postings ranging from topics like Florida seniors and the snowbirds hoping to become Florida residents, to living with Alzheimer’s disease, to whether George Clooney should keep his gray hair.  AARP also has an online community, complete with blogs, videos, photos, and journals.


And just last week, the world’s oldest blogger passed away at 108. Although she had help typing, the stories came from her and she enjoyed connecting with people throughout the world (click here for her blog).




I’m not suggesting that McCain start logging in to check his personal Facebook page or start Twittering or blogging by the hour. I wouldn’t look for that in a President. I expect the President of the United States to be spending his time making important decisions for the good of the country. However, I do think that it’s important to be technologically savvy in this fast-paced technological world.


As Mike Rubbo (Ollie’s writer) asks, “So if a woman who left school in 1914, can embrace the internet in her 106th year, what is there you can’t do, friend?” 


Woof to that!


What Are You Doing?

The answer to that question can now be answered through Twitter, a micro-blogging service that allows users to post short messages known as “tweets” for their followers to catch up on their daily activities. It is quickly becoming popular for people to keep in touch, like Facebook and MySpace. Actually just Monday, Facebook launched its new site, which Michael Arrington of describes as the Friendfeedization of Facebook. He states that while there were privacy issues being sorted out with the feed, “…it’s also clear that they like what they see at Friendfeed, which expertly combined the idea of an activity stream that was first popularized by Facebook with the microblogging trend introduced by Twitter.


I knew what Twitter was, but since I don’t use it, I needed to check out how the people at commoncraft explain it, “in plain English:”



What is unique about it is that it creates a sense of community between groups of people (either those you know personally or not) during those mundane moments of the day, by letting them know what you’re up to; letting them know what you are doing.


As Facebook and MySpace quickly became must-haves for political campaigns, Twitter is rising in popularity, but also raising many questions about what constitutes proper communications between the politicians, their constituents, and the public.


Michael Whitney at TechPresident found out that Libertarian Presidential candidate Bob Barr apparently twitters himself, with no staff and no help, unlike other public officials who have staff to make those tweets, such as Barack Obama. Even the bloggers at the annual conference Netroots Nation, spent a lot of the time twittering away.


But Congress is concerned about this when it comes to politicians’ tweets and the new way of interacting with constituents, and as a result, congressional regulations may be used on the site. The House Franking Commission (which also determines the use and rules of taxpayer money with constituent communications) is now trying to figure out what to do with all these stamps! It’s in the process now, as the article states, of updating regulations originally conceived to govern sending postal mail in order to account communicating over the Internet. Already, rules do exist that cover official Web sites and e-mails.


Rep. John Culberson (R-Texas) has been one of the leaders in this new way of communications; he held a ground-breaking virtual townhall meeting, answering questions online, including through Twitter. He hopes that Congress will take into consideration how the Internet is changing both daily lives and politics, and can be used for good like accountability: “The single-minded goal needs to be to shine sunlight in every dark corner of the Congress, to make the Congress and the government as transparent as humanly possible,” Culberson said in a telephone interview with CNN late last week. So maybe that’s where some of the rest of the issues lie too?


In researching for my final project, I found that both U.S. Senators of Florida are severely lacking in their social media efforts. Facebook and MySpace have already become staples to campaigns, but neither have an official page. And if a politician hasn’t tapped into that basic foundation, Twitter is not on the horizon. So when it comes to these other Congress members, who don’t rely so much on social media because of the demographics of their constituencies, what will happen to them? Will they be viewed as un-transparent when asked, “What are you doing?” Only time (and the response from the public) will tell. 





McCain vs. The Media: Round TWO!

Looks like the game is still going! McCain has responded to the media’s “love affair” with Obama by mocking those newscasters with two videos. Viewers get to vote on their favorite song at the new site.  The videos are clips of reporters declaring their fascination and undying love for Obama, blatantly showing their biases.


It’s pretty ridiculous what these so-called unbiased, fair news reporters have said on national television regarding Obama. During the primaries, Chris Matthews of MSNBC’s Hardball said that he “felt this thrill running up my leg.” Lee Cowan of NBC News says, “It’s almost hard to remain objective because it’s infectious… I must confess my knees quaked a bit.” Matthews suggests that first graders should read about Obama’s speech on race and should be taught in schools along with classics like The Great Gatsby and Huckleberry Finn. Are you serious?! And MSNBC’s Tucker Carlson says it’s like a “ninth grade boy’s kind of love… I- think-about-you-when-I-go-to-bed, too-embarrassed-to-stand-up, sealed-with-a kiss kind of love…”  And later Matthews says, “He’s sort of a gift to us from the world in so many ways.”


Check it out:


Here’s the video that’s taking the lead:



And the other one (same content, just different song):



What is going on here? I liked to think that we had a free and fair press. It seems like they’re absolutely hypnotized under an Obama trance! Even CNN’s Lou Dobbs stated in the video, “They’re in the tank.”


 The McCain campaign shows just how much the media is obsessed with Obama, while at the same time having fun – all with social media! Visitors vote on their favorite, with the intent of broadcasting the winner on television (while hoping that the videos go viral). Before they can submit their vote though, one must enter their email address – establishing communication between potential voters and the campaign.


While the videos are well done, and definitely show Obamamania, I hope it doesn’t backfire (because after all, not all social media is good social media). The majority of the comments on the YouTube URL actually favor Obama and describe McCain as being a whiner. Obviously comments posted don’t necessarily encompass all thoughts on the video though. Guess we’ll have to see how the media analyzes this… oh wait… maybe that’s not such a good idea.


The Media vs. McCain

In the games of politics and covering news, the media has been playing unfairly in its coverage of McCain.


MSNBC posted an article today asking the question: Is media playing fair in campaign coverage?


There is no denying, no hiding the fact that the media has been extremely biased towards Obama.


As Obama travels throughout the Middle East and Europe, three major news media outlets have sent their anchors (their superstar anchors!) to cover his activities and broadcast live the evening news from his destinations: CBS chief anchor Katie Couric, ABC’s Charles Gibson, and NBC’s Brian Williams.



Hey, and so who went along with McCain when he traveled overseas three times since March? Where was everybody then? Where’d everybody go?



Media Research Center reported that:


Sen. McCain went to Europe and the Middle East for a week in March, and the Big Three evening news programs had a total of only four full stories on the trip; one, by NBC’s Kelly O’Donnell, was dedicated to McCain mistakenly saying Iran is aiding al-Qaeda in Iraq.  CBS did not even send a correspondent along, and offered only one report consisting of only thirty-one words the entire week Sen. McCain was abroad.

None of the three networks covered Sen. McCain’s trip to Canada in June at all.


The Project for Excellence in Journalism has found that there is indeed a discrepancy in the number of stories between Obama and McCain. “Every week, Obama played an important role in more than two-thirds of the stories. For July 7-13, for example, Obama was a significant presence in 77 percent of the stories while McCain was in 48 percent,” the PEJ said.


Of course the media denies this, and actually blames it on McCain – that he actually provoked it on himself and provided all the hoopla in the first place by challenging Obama to go overseas. On the Republican National Committee’s site, there was a “count-up” of how many days since Obama had visited Iraq. The ticker has stopped now at 925 days, 1 hour, 7 minutes, and 0 seconds.


Media Matters (which interestingly is a progressive research and information center “dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the U.S. media”) has a listing of 699 stories that are proof of just how critical the media has been of John McCain. From omitting information and simply not allowing McCain to express his side or even excessively showing how McCain is attacking Obama, the media has obviously declared who they want the American public to pay attention to and remember at the voting booths.


Maybe it’s all because Obama is the new guy in town and everybody wants to know about him. But the media shouldn’t push aside the great things McCain is doing either.


Today, The New York Times rejected an opinion piece written by McCain as a rebuttal to a previous piece written by Obama last week. The piece was critiquing Obama’s Iraq strategy, arguing against an established time table for withdrawing troops. In an email sent to the McCain staff by a NY Times editor said that the piece was not “acceptable” as written, but looked forward to publishing one in the future. Here’s the rest of their side of the story. And according to the Drudge Report, here’s McCain’s original piece. We’ll see just how long it takes for McCain’s side to be presented and published.


So just because Obama is the newbie on the scene shouldn’t make McCain old news! Seems to me like the media should take a look at FOX News’ slogan: “Fair and Balanced… You Decide” and adapt it into their news stories. I’m sure they’d cringe at the thought of that.  




Video Killed the Radio Star…

Video killed the radio star… and will kill television and its star too.


The Director of the e-campaign for the Republican National Committee, Cyrus Krohn visited class last week and discussed what the Republicans are doing online for McCain’s campaign.


Just on the homepage, there are various videos that visitors can watch, from McCain’s new ad to Obama’s Iraq Documentary. In its new Historic Online Platform, there are welcome videos from the RNC Chairman, and the Platform Chairman and Vice-Chairman. There is also a competition where participants submit a video answering the question, “Why are you a Republican in 2008?” Videos are also submitted through YouTube. Viewers then vote on their favorite, most creative video and the winner gets to go to the Convention and spend a day in the press pool and produce a video on the event – made for YouTube, not television.



The Democratic National Committee also has the same competition. (And I have to admit that Howard Dean has more personality than Mike Duncan!) (Also, on an interesting side note that I noticed, Dean mentions Obama by name, while Duncan does not mention nominating McCain by name).



The videos allow visitors to interact with the site on a different level – just like the music video did in 1981 on MTV. But even better, is that with the competition, it allows visitors to get involved and inspire others in their creative expression of why they are voting Republican in 2008. Instead of asking candidates their stance on the issues, the competition turns the tables on the voters, asking them their thoughts. It is this change that will hopefully not only bring new ideas and involvement in campaigns, but also a bit of fervor that seems to be missing (at least compared to Obama’s). It’s all about building relationships and dialogue, as Krohn mentioned.


And speaking of videos, the latest JibJab video is out! Time for Some Campaignin’ has been posted on various sites; I found it linked on MSN, Newsweek, among others. Friends also shared the link, making spread faster. While the content is definitely not serious, the video (and others on the site) brings humor to the 2008 campaign… besides, there’s a bit of truth in every joke, right?


So just as the video killed the radio star in the 80’s, I think the online video will only continue to grow and will also kill television. They will be used to bring communities together and facilitate the spreading of ideas… and a good laugh.




You Are What You Eat… Even in Politics

You are what you eat.


However, I didn’t know that my meals define me politically as well.


After reading Applebee’s America and the class articles, I’ve realized just how much I am judged based on what consumer products I buy, what activities I partake in, and even what I eat. I had no idea that by drinking Sprite, I could be labeled a Democrat. Or the fact that I like my Kashi GoLean cereal in the morning, I must be a die-hard Hilary Clinton fan? I don’t order stuffed crust pizza, and that’s apparently a biggie for McCain supporters.


In politics, it’s known as microtargeting. In Microtargeting, campaign staffers gather a bunch of data from targeted communities (such as what magazines you subscribe to, where you take vacations, what grocery products you buy, where you shop, etc) and use this coveted information to cater specific messaging that appeals to you. Polls are conducted on a wide variety of issues, matches are found among the group, and are then categorized based on those results. For example, the most passionate supporter against raising taxes might be a 40-year old man with college-bound children who likes to golf.  As Chris Cilliza states, “Messages are then targeted to each individual segment; as a result, the issues you hear about also happen to be the ones you are most interested in.” By categorizing crucial voting blocs, campaigns can cater to their issues better.


The following graphic, from Wired magazine, illustrates how we cast our ballots, and how candidates use this information to determine potential voting blocs.





It’s all about the messaging and appealing to voters’ interests. “Anybody who’s in the business of persuading the public, which is corporate America and political America, must now share their message in a way that not only reaches people based on how they get their information but also reaches people in a way they like to get information,” said Ken Mehlman, Bush’s campaign manager in 2004 (Applebee’s America, 50)


I think it’s fascinating that these tidbits of information help campaigns resonate with the people and are able to garner the votes they need because of this. President Bush’s campaign in 2004 won with the help of microtargeting. By appealing to voters on issues that relate to them and by what they are most interested in, the candidate becomes just that – more relatable, and is viewed as someone who understands the people.


Obviously, these judgments are not concrete; they only show tendencies. “Besides, the lines between who eats what continues to blur. Republicans are not necessarily red-meat-eating bourbon swillers, and not all Democrats are carrying their lattes to the farmers’ market.” (New York Times article)


I do think these categorizations made by campaigns encourage stereotypes and as Cilliza mentioned, only makes campaigners tell you what you want to hear. If you’re the 40 year-old man hoping that taxes will decrease, they’ll tell you that. If not, you fit into another category. Maybe you’re passionate about global warming, and they’ll tell you that the polar ice caps won’t melt away, but only if you elect this candidate. When it comes down to it, you want those issues solved and the candidates want to get elected. And, while the campaign sends you a ton of mail about lowering taxes or saving the polar bears, it’s up to you to do your homework on the candidate… and eventually to vote or not to vote for him/her.


So take a sip of that Dr. Pepper, Republicans… or, if you’re Democrat, take a sip of that Sprite… and find out for yourselves which is the best candidate. And while you’re at it, shake things up a bit and switch beverages.