Face to Facebook

California’s electoral candidates are a social-media mixed bag

There’s one pressing question every Californian wants answered going into this November election: Which candidate has the most Facebook friends?

In all seriousness, social-media networking is set to play a bigger role in this fall’s elections than ever. This has pundits and pols alike taking to sites such as Facebook and Twitter to share ideas with the masses—and shred their opponents. And it turns out Republicans are winning nationwide, according to a recent joint study by New York and George Washington universities, which was first reported by Politico.

In the report—which determined politicians’ online savvy, or “Digital IQ,” based on their community size and rate of interaction—Arizona Sen. John McCain is the leader of the pack. This surprises (he’s 73!) but also makes sense (he got a head start running for President in ’08).

Here in California, 72-year-old Jerry Brown trumps Meg Whitman on Twitter by nearly 800,000 followers (as of press time). Not bad—but on Facebook, the Democrat gubernatorial hopeful’s 63,557 “likes” trails Whitman’s 82,622.

The good news for Whitman is that her followings are robust and loyal. On Facebook, her campaign’s daily postings regularly garner upward of 150 comments; Brown’s Facebook posts cracked 100 comments only three times in the past two weeks.

This commenting, however, may not last, as the California Fair Political Practices Commission announced earlier this month that it would be looking into campaigning on social-networking sites.

With or without FPPC involvement, California’s Wild West will continue online. Political operatives will blog and comment without transparency, Whitman haters will spill vitriol on the former eBay CEO’s Facebook wall and Brown will post more shots of him chilling out with ’80s rock stars (such as Journey; see www.flickr.com/photos/jerrybrown2010).

Meanwhile, California’s remaining political contenders will follow suit. Sen. Barbara Boxer’s anemic 21,945 Twitter following gives her no advantage against rival Carly Fiorina’s 290,273, but Boxer has the Republican rival edged on Facebook.

In Sacramento, city council candidates Darrell Fong (no Twitter page) and Ryan Chin (only five followers) have a meager Facebook presence. Chin enjoys only 197 friends, while Fong—who has opted for a “profile” account, which is actually against Facebook policy—enjoys the company of 374 virtual friends.

Maybe voters in Greenhaven and the Pocket don’t use computers?