Today, Barack Obama will hold a Facebook townhall meeting as his re-election campaign kicks into gear. Obama made good use of social media in his 2008 campaign, and thanks to the popularity of his candidacy, social media sites like Facebook benefited from the exposure. But after two years in office, the luster has worn off of Hope and Change, and the Politico wonders if Facebook might be damaging its brand by hitching its wagon to Obama’s fading star:
Political consultants and brand managers says politicians and companies put themselves at risk when they become linked in the public eye. Think Dick Cheney and Halliburton. George W. Bush and Enron. Hillary Rodham Clinton and Wal-Mart.
Obama’s Facebook event is “political product placement — with the president seeking to leverage Silicon Valley’s innovation, future, entrepreneur brand and the companies seeking to benefit from being associated with the most powerful office of the most powerful country,” said Chris Lehane, a political consultant to Democrats and unions who worked in the White House in the Clinton years.
“Of course,” Lehane added, “the perils of such a mutual leveraging for the president is if a company does something that turns it into an Enron or BP and for the companies if they become defined as partisan in the way Halliburton or Koch was closely linked to the Bush White House and Republican Party.”
Facebook has offered its platform to politicians of both parties for splashy townhall events. For instance, Tim Pawlenty conducted live townhalls and made live video announcements on Facebook. Sarah Palin uses Facebook as her main communications platform, although that doesn’t appear to involve much effort from Facebook’s corporate staff. As one GOP consultant for Arnold Schwarzenegger told Politico, snagging a presidential event is a boon under any circumstances.
Still, with Obama’s popularity waning, this event will fall short of the cachet of Obama’s efforts in 2008. Facebook events also have another problem, which is that of moderation. Thanks to the strict controls that a campaign can place on questions, they tend to be self-congratulatory affairs, where questions that only play to a candidate’s strength are allowed through. In live townhalls, the questions are usually more spontaneous, although this administration’s team at its allies have been rather adept at planting questioners in live events, too. Facebook won’t benefit from the exposure if the townhall event ends up with all the drama of a Rotary Club awards dinner.
If you have a critical question for Obama, don’t expect it to get through today, even if you do leave the question at the White House entry form. Instead, Tim Pawlenty wants to take those questions himself on his website, where he will presumably answer those questions that fall outside the “how come America doesn’t appreciate your awesome awesomeness, Mr. President?”
Now that he is in full campaign mode, what are the odds that Obama will answer the hard questions about the challenges facing our country? Will he be asked about his failure to control government spending? His job-crushing health care law?
I’d rather not put odds on something that looks like a sucker bet. Pawlenty also has a new video showing him at actual live events in the past couple of weeks:
How many plan to watch Obama’s Facebook event today at 4:30 ET? How many will try to leave questions? Take the poll: