Old-fashioned politicking mixing with growing social media use

Sen. Mary Landrieu was among dozens of candidates who attended the annual AFL CIO picnic.
Sen. Mary Landrieu was among dozens of candidates who attended the annual AFL CIO picnic.

Labor Day moves political campaigns into a high gear, and local candidates were out in force kissing babies and shaking hands. But social media is also a huge part of candidates' strategy for connecting with voters.

At City Park, where the annual AFL-CIO picnic is held, campaign staffers raced to put up signs to beat the afternoon rains, while seasoned politicians and those hoping to be elected to office for the first time navigated the packed tents where everyday workers were enjoying picnic fare.

"Labor Day is typically the official start of the campaign, because prior to that, people are not paying attention," said UNO Political Scientist Ed Chervenak, Ph.D.

From Jefferson Parish President John Young, a Republican running statewide for the lieutenant governor's post next year, to Democratic U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, candidates are turning more and more to social media even as they continue to press the flesh on the campaign trail.

"Listen, this is going to be a close race, but it's a race that we can win," Landrieu said to the hundreds under the tent. Pundits said in a red state like Louisiana, Landrieu is in a fight for her political career this November.

Facebook and other social media sites are being used by Landrieu and challengers like Republican Bill Cassidy to reach out to voters. Others, like Congressman Cedric Richmond, D-New Orleans, also see the wisdom of tapping into such sites.

"Social media can help you avoid spending a lot of money, or you can do grassroots campaigning with social media and save some money," said Richmond.

"It's ubiquitous, it's everywhere, more and more people are going on the Internet," said Chervenak.

"When our kids and our social media people get involved, they can change an election, and they can change the world as we saw with Arab Spring," continued Richmond.

Chervenak said social media can give candidates something in return.

"What social media offers is feedback from the public. It's not just the candidate putting information out there," he said.

Young knows social media will be a big part of his statewide campaign.

"Social media is now a big part of reaching out to people, not only through the traditional media, but obviously through social media. Facebook, Twitter, it's a new world," said Young.

But the same social media sites that many of the candidates are counting on to help make their campaigns successful are being used by their opponents to hurt their chances come election day.

"It's always a double-edged sword. It's there for you to use, but it also can be used against you," stated Chervenak.

And in an election season that has Louisiana's senior senator defending where she lives, pundits said there is room for old-fashioned politicking as well as social media.

"I've literally lived on Prieur Street since I'm 5 years old. The Landrieu's are as much about Broadmoor as the Broadmoor Park," Landrieu said about the residency controversy.

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