By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
The crowd was jamming with inner-city college coeds, high schoolers, teachers, parents holding little ones, and a slew of media cameras, all awaiting — Chelsea Clinton.
Marisa Blancarte, a recent grad of Loyola Marymount University, traveled several miles south to Carson's minority-rich campus to join her sisters from the historically Latina-based Sigma Lambda Gamma sorority in supporting Hillary Clinton.
Clinton and Obama both would probably like to take credit for a spike in registration among the 29-and-under crowd. But a far more disorderly, undirected hand is driving at least a part of the action, just another in the many twists in the struggle between two Democrats: the social-networking site Facebook.
Although Jonathan Wilcox, a professor at USC's Annenberg School for Communication, says the campaigns still don't really get how to appeal to young people — "an old person is trying to look cool to a younger person, and it's awkward" — Clinton spokesman Luis Vizcaino boasts that she has 30 chapters on Facebook. "I think it's one of the most important ways of [creating] grassroots organization through technology," Vizcaino says.
Thousands of politically charged posses have sprouted, made up of users who share not only a preference for a candidate, but also disdain for other prez hopefuls. Right now, 182 groupies belong to "If Huckabee wins President I'm gaining weight just to spite him." Hillary has 35,180 members in "Hillary Clinton: Stop Running for President and Make Me a Sandwich." There's also "Hillary can't handle one man, how can she handle 150,000,000 of them?" — a group of 1,511. Obama gets even more attention, with 832 users in the misspelled "Stop Barrack Obama: (one million strong against communism)" who mock the senator's F.B. group "Barack Obama (One Million Strong for Barack)," which has drawn nearly 450,000 users.
Nobody knows if any of this actually influences the vote. But clearly the pollsters and media analysts — outwitted by the voters so far — don't understand what is clinching the victories.
UCLA political-science Ph.D. student Mac Bunyanunda, who doesn't belong to any politically affiliated groups "on the book" and prefers to remain neutral, has been closely observing the 2008 primaries' presence on F.B. He has been particularly interested in the rise of Obama, who has over 480,000 F.B. supporters, compared to Clinton's 109,572.
One day, Bunyanunda says, he was surprised to see a fellow Ph.D. friend of his suddenly appear "in Barack Obama's group" on Facebook. Says the researcher, trying, like everyone else, to read the tea leaves: "I wouldn't peg him as an Obama supporter, knowing the classes that he takes, and knowing him ... I think he did it to get girls."
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