On September 25th, 1960 Richard Nixon was leading in the race for President. His opponent, John Kennedy was young and inexperienced and after several radio broadcast debates Nixon was the clear frontrunner.
On September 26th, 1960 everything changed. That night 70 million U.S. viewers tuned in to watch the first ever televised presidential debate. Even though nothing in the candidates message had changed, extensive polling of the television audience showed Kennedy to be the winner of the debate by a very large margin.
What was the difference? Kennedy embraced the new medium of the day, Nixon did not. Kennedy loved the camera, and the camera loved him. Nixon refused to wear make-up and the hot lights had him sweating before the debate even began. One observer noted, ‚ÄúThere was no mistaking the distinction between the ease with which JFK related to the living rooms of America and the sense of desperateness that Nixon's intensity gave off.‚Äù
We‚Äôre seeing the same thing happen today. Barak Obama has embraced new media. He announced his VP choice to millions of Americans via text message before he told the traditional media and each and every one of them felt like they got something special, that they were an insider. Those folks can say they knew before CNN…you can bet he‚Äôs got their vote. He has more followers on Twitter than any other user (over 70,000). He takes his message directly to the nation, often completely bypassing the middle-man of traditional media. He‚Äôs even been reported to exchange personal emails and text messages. ‚ÄúHis people‚Äù feel more connected to him than any other candidate, ever.
Obama gets it. He understands that new media is a conversation, a tool used for two-way communication. He‚Äôs a guy we can relate to, that‚Äôs accessible and we‚Äôd feel comfortable having a cup of coffee with (this isn‚Äôt about my personal politics but my observations about who‚Äôs embracing new marketing effectively).
McCain on the other hand seems to miss it completely. His web site looks like something from a Mad Magazine spoof and he‚Äôs noticeably absent from most of the social networking sites. I have no idea what McCain is up to these days, but thanks to twitter I know which cities Obama has been visiting.
When it comes to election day the Obama campaign will have built an incredible ‚Äúget out the vote‚Äù machine and I think it will win him the election. On that day, what would the McCain campaign give to have millions of people who had given their permission for him to drop them a personal note via text message reminding them that it was time to vote?
11/06/2008 – Update: Here's an interesting post election post – Obama vs. McCain Social Media Scorecard