Last month the White House struck upon a particularly effective idea: using the #40dollars hash tag on Twitter, they asked voters what $40 meant to them. That, the Obama administration said, was the amount of money that would have disappeared from an average middle class paycheck if Republicans allowed a tax cut to expire.
The move was so popular, Republicans are trying it for their election-year digital strategy. Ahead of last night’s State of the Union address, Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney and other Republicans started tweeting using the hashtag #1000days to accent the amount of time since Senate Democrats passed a federal budget.
The problem for the GOP is that #40dollars generated very real responses from very real voters that humanized a legislative issue. #1000days, on the other hand, has been generating mostly partisan and, in many cases, mostly wonky responses.
“#40dollars means my grocery budget for the week” just does a much better job of tugging at the heart strings than “Lewis and Clark traveled to the West Coast in 862 days. The U.S. Senate hasn’t passed a budget in #1000Days.”
“We kind of proved it in a very clear and public way that this money was significant to a lot of people,” Kori Schulman, White House deputy director for digital strategy,said at the What’s Next? D.C. conference on Monday. “This was sort of a make or break moment for us, and we kept reinforcing that this was important and kept at it.”
At this writing, Topsy is saying #1000days has generated close to 2,500 tweets in the past day. By comparison, when @WhiteHouse first used the #40dollars hash tag at 4:15 pm on Dec. 19, it was trending worldwide by 5 p.m. and generating about 6,000 tweets per hour.
It’s clear that the digitial media campaigns had different goals, and #1000days was primarily aimed at emphasizing a point that was notably absent in President Obama’s State of the Union address last night. But if social media as it pertains to politics is truly about connecting with voters and constituents, score one for the Democrats.