As Republican White House hopefuls ramp up their campaigns
in preparation for the final Autumn push before primary season, the fight for
the GOP nomination is not only coming for donor's checkbooks...but their social
media accounts as well. The money war in politics goes back centuries, but as
we move closer to 2012, could Facebook and Twitter popularity end up being
analyzed with the same fervor as those FEC quarterly reports? If the numbers
are any indication, it is entirely possible.
According to OhMyGov Media Monitoring, presumptive
Republican frontrunner Mitt Romney is not only the most financially supported
of the 2012 candidates but the best positioned in terms of social media at this point in the race.
First, as always, we concentrate on the money. According to
his Federal Election Committee quarterly report for the period March - June 2011, the former Massachusetts
Governor has over $18.3 million in donations to his credit. That puts him
second only to President Obama in terms of money raised, and far ahead of the
rest of the GOP field. Just for some perspective, Romney raised nearly half (46%) of all the money donated to major Republican candidates in
the last quarter. No other candidate raised more than $4.5 million, putting Romney in an enviable
But Romney's current strength is just noticeable in terms of mouse clicks
as it is in terms of dollars. According to OhMyGov, Romney accounts for nearly
45% of the Facebook audience for Republican candidates, and ranks highly on Twitter as well.
With more than a
million Facebook fans, Romney is in a class by himself in the GOP field. The
second most popular Facebook candidate is Minnesota Rep. Michele
Bachmann, who has almost 620,000 fewer fans than Romney. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, whose Twitter following dwarfs all other GOPers in the race, nonetheless trails Romney by a wide margin on Facebook.
It is not only the size of Romney's share of the Facebook
pie that is impressive, but the rate at which he's picked up followers. During the 2nd quarter of 2011, Romney gained Facebook fans at an
intimidating rate (188,000+), far ahead of rivals Bachmann, Tim Pawlenty and Jon Hunstman. For all the money raised by this trio of viable dark-horses for the nomination, only Bachmann boasted notable gains in terms of popular support as measured in social media. Pawlenty and Huntsman showed minimal gains in Facebook fans and Twitter followers, indicating that they have yet to spark a broad movement behind their candidacies. Whether it's a "charisma gap" or a name-recognition gap that has kept the followers away, it's a potentially fatal problem to have at this stage in the GOP primary season.
While Newt maintains his large pre-campaign Twitter following --- over 1.3 million followers --- he hasn't been adding to it very much at all. In the 2nd quarter this year, Gingrich added only about 1%, while Romney's Twitter following grew by 80% to roughly 56,000 fans at the end of June (he has 61,000 today).
Michele Bachmann has nearly 64,000 Twitter followers today, growing 47% in the 2nd quarter. Former pizza titan Herman Cain had the best performance on Twitter in the quarter, growing by 158% (32,496
new followers) as his name recognition skyrocketed in the wake of several
unorthodox media appearances. Ron Paul picked up nearly 19,000 followers.
So what can we glean from these numbers? Are Tea Party
favorites like Herman Cain and Michele Bachmann hot on the heels of
establishment pick Mitt Romney? No, they probably aren't. What one can begin
to assume from these numbers however is that while some may go to Twitter for
quick blurbs and sound-bites from entertaining characters (do you really think
all of Sarah Palin's followers actually like Sarah Palin?), they go to Facebook
for news and updates on people they are legitimately interested in or support.
Mitt Romney's relative Facebook popularity is matched only by his undeniable
financial support, a combination most candidates would take over 10,000 new
Twitter followers any day.
And yet, Romney (or whoever the GOP standard-bearer will be) still has a way to go if he or she wishes to mount
a serious challenge to an embattled but still relatively popular incumbent in
Barack Obama next year. The President boasts a staggering 22 million plus
Facebook fans to go along with his $86 million (and counting) war chest. Romney's
operation is slick, well funded, and expertly packaged...and overshadowed by what Obama for America is rolling out over the next few months. For now, though, all GOP eyes are on the road to Tampa and the nomination.