Rushville Republican

October 19, 2012

Mauzy: Has Obama lost his mojo?

Jean Mauzy
Rushville Republican

RUSHVILLE — Months ago, I mentioned to my husband that the Obama campaign seemed extremely silent compared to four years ago. Remember the rush of supporters he was able to gather and the ‘spell’ he seemed to cast upon his believers. I do, and a lot of it had to do with his campaign strategy at the time. The way he kept his followers connected through social media tools was truly phenomenal.

Internet communication allowed Barack Obama to easily build a network of supporters. MySpace, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and a personal social website kept audiences tuned into his message of hope and change. Plus, the personal approach of keeping supporters informed via cell phone text messaging and of also keeping his name popular by placing advertisements into online video games, pushed Obama’s 2008 campaign to new levels of reaching out to a mass audience.

Generally speaking, Obama targeted individuals aged 30 and under who were not only techno savvy but who were in a group of citizens who either had little interest in big-government politics or who felt as though their voices didn’t matter to most politicians. Of that age group, Obama’s reaching out to the college crowd in particular was quite smart as it served him well to gather strength on his grass roots campaign. What better place than a college campus to persuade the public to accept a black man to become the next president of the United States. The diversity that exists within most campuses puts students in the mindset to be accepting of differing individual views, cultural upbringings, and of skin color. Obama spoke about that diversity to bring this age group together for change. Reaching them further, singers such as Dave Mathews performed on campus and essentially endorsed Obama for president.

Obama persuaded the college crowd to believe that their opinion mattered. He identified with them by speaking of his college-age years where he drifted and out of school and the paths he took to get from that point to where he was now. During onsite campus campaigns he urged them to make their voices heard and made it easy for them to do it by having voter registration available and by telling them the dates, and times, and locations of where to go vote. He became a user-friendly politician, one who made himself available and accessible instead of ignoring this age group as many politicians had done in the past. After getting their attention, he kept them engaged through the use of mediated communication tools.

Of course, older supporters were also being exposed to his Internet media campaign. Those who wanted free bumper stickers or to donate to his campaign found their way by search engine or through information on campaign posters to the my.barackobama.com website. Upon entering, a user was prompted to give a cell phone number, email address and zip code. The purpose of giving the information was to send campaign updates and alerts via text message or email, especially those messages that were location specific to the user.

Barack Obama’s presidential campaign used almost every available social tool to get his word out to voters and to engage them in the hope for change journey to the White House.

Obama’s campaign created high levels of synergy. Boldness to share political beliefs likely resulted from the computer user feeling very important and powerful in helping Obama win the election. Emails can transmit a sense of extreme personalization like Obama truly cared about ‘you’ and wanted ‘you’ to join ‘him’ on a personal journey to victory. Internet communication had the power to make members of the general public feel very important, and this feeling kept them coming back for more…because it feels good to feel important.

The Internet allowed an outreach to a mass audience cheap and easy but it also allowed the people to participate in a campaign in a new kind of way. Curious individuals didn’t have to rely on public speeches, news broadcasts, and hard copy news reports to learn about Obama’s campaign. Supporters, through sharing of ideas or of support for Obama, gained a sense of connectedness that can feel very real with Internet communication. What was once tradition to only share political views among close friends in a safe environment became the option to share ideas with the world because the user may have felt safely hidden within the confines of their own homes while doing so but also connected to others (voters) at the same time. Whether the strong surge of support was intentional fallout of the Internet campaigning or just luck for Obama, using the new media served him well. He not only was able to reach the masses in a grand way but he took of advantage of YouTube for free advertising that for the 14.5 million hours watched by visitors to the site would have reportedly cost $47 million to purchase that much airtime for television broadcast.    

Internet aside, Obama also had to connect with the grounded public. Even though he received funds from big donors, he successfully removed himself from the stereotype of being a typical politician. One of things he did was to visit regular families in their homes and dine with them. An image was being born of a regular guy who could hang out with you in your living room. When the Fisher family from Beach Grove, Indiana was invited to speak at the National Democratic Convention, video was played that showed Obama having dinner with that family back in Beech Grove. Of course it seemed really cool that the man running for president would want to mingle so intimately with the voters. What they didn’t showcase during the video was that the Mr. Fisher was a leader of the Amtrak union and that Obama really wanted the union vote. It didn’t matter though. For as much as Obama may have had an agenda when he visited people’s homes, he also persuaded, by image, that he wanted to be involved in and understand the problems of all American citizens. It was great promotion.

Advertisements showing Obama chatting with campaign supporters in a personal setting were an important part of the visual aspect of his campaign. Seeing is believing. The visual reminders that people were confronted with during Barack Obama’s presidential campaign of 2008 likely helped him to win the election. After capturing the attention of the voters through his words or actions, he was able to keep their minds refreshed with his ideal image. His message of hope and change was kept alive through the millions posters and stickers that his supporters showcased in their yards or on the bumpers of their automobiles. Singers who performed free concerts in support of Obama added to the unending reminders of Obama’s name and of his causes. Undoubtedly though, the constant availability of Obama’s presence on the Internet sealed the image he built and kept his image alive in the minds of millions of American citizens.

What has happened to Obama’s mojo?