Refused a place in 16 Republican presidential debates, former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer didn't scream or holler. Instead, Roemer turned to Twitter.
"We respond to questions of every debate," Roemer said. "We set up a TV and we answer them before the candidates do. We do this on Twitter."
Social media has given Roemer a voice in the 2012 New Hampshire primary.
"My campaigning is done with the Internet, intertwined with the whole notion of social media," Roemer said. "We use social media to substitute as best we can for not being included."
Roemer sees social media as a benefit for his campaign, something sustaining it. His number of Twitter followers is up 500 percent in the past five weeks, he said.
"This has been a real interesting development," Roemer said. "It kept me alive."
Every 2012 candidate appears to have a Twitter presence. Former Utah Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr.'s daughters, tweeting as the Huntsman girls, have a large following.
But Twitter is especially important to Roemer and former New Mexico Gov. Gary Johnson, who also was blocked from most debates.
Johnson last week was promoting another Internet attention grabber, a national online Town Hall forum via Yowie.com and GaryJohnson2012.com.
"We've probably done eight or 10 of them," Johnson campaign spokesman Joe Hunter said. "We find they work really well. We've had as many as 10,000 viewers, Yowie.com told me."
The Johnson campaign makes exhaustive use of Twitter and Facebook, Hunter said.
"The Internet and online are self selecting in a good way," he said. "People are communicating with you for a reason. People are interested in taking the time. Plus, it's just more personal."
Cutting out the middleman
Candidates get the message out without the filter of media.
"You cut out the middle man," Hunter said. "You can get out there."
Twitter is to 2012 what Facebook and MySpace were to 2008.
So says Howard Dean, former governor of Vermont and Democratic national chairman, himself an Internet trailblazer.
Dean turned to the Internet in 2004 to raise his profile in the race for the Democratic nomination for president.
"I would never have been a frontrunner without it," Dean recalled last week.
His campaign was inspirational to young people who wanted to help him get elected. They encouraged the Dean campaign to turn to the Internet to reach the people.
"They were the ones who did it," Dean said.
The Dean campaign used the Internet to raise contributions. But supporters also found it a useful tool for another critical phase of the campaign.
"We also organized through it," Dean said.
His campaign used Meetup.com.
"This was never designed for politics," Dean said. "This was a website where people would 'meet' on the Web and then get together."
Dean supporters used it to put together local gatherings for his campaign.
"There were 700 to 800 sites around the country," Dean said. "I think this was the first adaptation of this for politics."
Social media evolves as campaign tool
Southern New Hampshire University professor Dean Spiliotes has watched campaign Internet use evolve through five primaries.
Early on, it was used for campaign websites that provided platform bullet points and background on the candidates.
"It certainly was convenient," Spiliotes said.
Arizona Sen. John McCain was the first candidate he recalled doing well at Internet fundraising in 2000, but Dean excelled at it in 2004, mining small contributions to contend with Sen. John Kerry of Massachusetts, the eventual nominee, Spiliotes recalled.
The process has gone from a static source of information to something interactive, he said. Along the way, it has traveled through event videos on YouTube to friends on Facebook.
"Roemer and Johnson are using it to go person to person," Spiliotes said. "Social media is an opportunity for person-to-person contact for their campaigns."
Obama used it to his advantage
Dean and Spiliotes related the success of President Barack Obama in moving to social media in 2008 to get an edge on his rivals.
"In 2008, there was a feeling the Republicans were lagging," Spiliotes said. "Now, the Republicans have closed the gap for this cycle."
The technology is important, he said.
"I think this is interwoven into campaign strategy now," Spiliotes said. "You can't do it with Internet alone, as Roemer and Johnson have found out. Still, it has kept them in the campaign."
It is changing the New Hampshire primary, Spiliotes said.
Candidates no longer practice and perfect their message in New Hampshire, because what happens here is seen around the world instantaneously, Spiliotes said.
He said he gets emails from people in Europe, asking about candidate announcements in New Hampshire towns.
"This is unimaginable from 15 to 20 years ago," Spiliotes said. "This is a great organizational, mobilizational tool."
Dean said nobody knows where it's all going.
"None of us in '04 could have predicted YouTube or MySpace," Dean said. "Twitter was not around in '08."
TV will remain a dominant force, but change is coming, Dean believes.
"Candidates will be able to go outside and do their own content," he said. "This will level the playing field."
Hunter said it is becoming more important.
"We do not know yet how important," Hunter said. "A significant portion of voters are depending on the Internet for information. Four years ago, the notion more people would be getting information about the campaign online than on the nightly news would have been scoffed at."
Roemer said the Internet and social media are replacing retail politics.
"It's a baby, it's just happening," Roemer said. "It will be a big part of campaigns going forward. Bigger, bigger and bigger. If we take this campaign as a one, as the beginning, in four years, it will be an eight, and in eight years, it will be a 30."
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