By Ryan Isakow
Tomorrow is the Democratic primary for New Jersey’s vacant Senate Seat, and Cory Booker is all but certain to win. The most recent Quinnipiac poll had Cory Booker at 54% of the vote, with Rep. Frank Pallone at 17% Rep. Rush Holt at 15%, and Sheila Oliver at 5%.
Frankly, the results aren’t too surprising. Mayor Booker has a massive national social media presence, bringing in resources and abilities far outclassing a Mayor of a midsize city. While all four candidates saw jumps in their Facebook likes over the course of the race, none even approached Cory Booker’s supporter base.
Rush Holt, who more than doubled his followers over the course of the race, still received less than a quarter as many new followers as Cory Booker. The other contenders saw jumps, but remained by far the weakest candidates on Facebook.
Twitter presence isn’t even a competition; Booker already had well over a million followers before the race began, a lead no other candidate could even begin to challenge.
The high profile nature of Booker’s candidacy probably contributed to his traditional media advantage as well. High profile politicians like Booker get more coverage; not only do they have higher visibility, their online supporters demonstrate a preexisting interest in stories featuring them. Although the average news stories per day did not differentiate much, Booker’s advantage reflects increased journalistic interest.
Booker had many things in his favor going into the primary, but the biggest of them all is the national profile he has created for himself through social media. The extent of his national platform allows him to make his initiatives newsworthy nationwide, bringing in outside donors and endorsements. In this context, the primary was over before it began; there was no way for any of his opponents to challenge, let along match, Booker’s social media strength. This meant an insurmountable gap in fundraising, exposure, and message control.
Social media isn’t everything in an election, but having the strongest presence gives an unmistakable advantage. With a gap is as high as Booker’s, it would take huge amounts of outside support to really challenge him. We’ll be keeping an eye on other candidates with strong social media teams as the 2013 off year elections approach.