Steffen Schmidt, IAFC Blogger
Steffen W. Schmidt, University Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at Iowa State University, WNYC blogger, and chief Political correspondent of Insider Iowa.
The surge of social media has drastically reshaped the politics of 2012. The group MoveOn.org plans a campaign to put the college student debt issue on every Facebook page of every college student in the U.S., raising the question of whether social media will be same galvanizing tool it was in 2008 in getting out the youth vote for Obama?
There is no question that the Obama reelection strategy is to "narrowcast" themes to very specific constituencies, including women, Hispanic voters, and the youth, either college educated or those just entering college. Narrowcasting a campaign is most effectively done through social media because you can target and tweak the message.
Even more than in 2008, Twitter, Facebook, texts, and other tools will be the central core of Obama 2012. The most powerful way to trigger this kind of 'authentic campaigning' is for the Obama and surrogates to visit campuses and create "Tweetable moments" from which students will initiate Facebook/Twitter experiences and images.
In the case of his trip to the University of Iowa, Obama also clearly interjected himself into the deadlock over funding public universities. The Iowa legislature and governor Terry Branstad have been struggling with spending against Republicans that originally fiercely opposed to a major increase of support for the state schools. (It's also no coincidence that Iowa is a battleground state!)
And there's a reason his college initiative is coming now, and not later and close enough for people to remember that the Republicans via Rick Santorum ridiculed "college" students and a college education. Santorum said, “President Obama once said he wants everybody in America to go to college. What a snob.” Bringing this up now, when a very conservative Congress dominated by Tea Party activists is still in session also promises to pit the administration against the GOP and create a tense and conflict-ridden environment.
This whole brouhaha is sure to alarm parents, grandparents and students as they struggle to put pencil to paper on their educational costs. His focus on this constituency is intended to "close the deal" for this slice of the electorate early on as the Democrats have done with women’s issues.
Let me add that I have no doubt the Republicans and Mitt Romney, the presumptive nominee of the GOP, will also ramp up a very powerful social media presence as his campaign sets up its battle plan. Interestingly Romney has quickly expressed his opposition to letting student loan costs double on July 1. GOP members of congress have also backed off letting costs skyrocket but they want to pay for it by cutting some funds for diagnostics in the Affordable Healthcare Act (Obamacare) while the administration wants to close some corporate loopholes. Clearly piling more debt on the one trillion dollar burden already plaguing American students is not a politically smart move this year.
Log on to the Internet. There is a lot of political stuff coming to your Facebook and Twitter coming soon!