Some prominent local and state Democrats are preparing to vie for newly appointed White House Chief of Staff Rahm Emmanuel’s open congressional seat. In this coming special election, candidates will not have the time, nor the money to run a full-blown campaign with large media ad budgets. In this atmosphere that will likely feature some recognizable names and good reputations, candidates will have to look to social media as a mode to connect with the district.
This special election promises to be different than other Illinois special elections. Mainly, such as in the special election for Dennis Hastert’s open seat, the race was divided along party lines. Here, the 5th district is so heavily democrat, that whomever emerges from their party, will surely win the election. That being said, we’re looking at a crowded field of candidates cutting up the electorate along several lines.
Social media will be critical to serve the following purposes:
- Growing name awareness – most of the candidates are known quantities, but still have a ways to go before they reach Emmanuel’s level.
- Establishing their point of difference (branding) – people’s minds and traditional media usually define a candidate by a narrow set ideas of ideas or positions. Social media can help the candidate define those positions and priorities, rather than anyone else, and have traditional media play the role of reinforcing those positions.
- Connecting with constituents, finding the evangelists - Chicagoland has a growing number of political insider blogs and interested citizen journalists that people look to for an “on the ground perspective.” Candidates will be well served to cultivate relationships with those people. Having key bloggers and opinion shapers in the district will be a big leg up in a tight race.
- Speaking directly with constituents – if the 2008 presidential election proved anything, voters want interaction with candidates. I think in an election this size, the ability to scale interactions is totally within reach.
- Keeping things interesting – with all the 2008 election hoopla, we might be experiencing voter burnout. Social media is a fantastic way to communicate and entertain. Candidates who execute a good social media strategy will find voters will be spending more time finding out about their them.
This special election will be so interesting because it is a condensed race, filling a big-name elected’s seat and featuring candidates who are accomplished in their own right. It’s an interesting environment for an election playing out in the 5th district. I think whomever can think outside of the traditional boundaries of campaigns will be successful.