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Oops! (They Did It): Candidates' Social Media Missteps

Running for office these days means more than just shaking hands and kissing babies. It now requires social media savvy. And while Twitter and Facebook offer free venues for candidates to get their messages across, they can also mean that missteps go viral.

Case in point: #AskBobby. Last week, the super PAC supporting Governor Bobby Jindal’s presidential campaign invited Twitter users to submit questions to the candidate. Within hours, #AskBobby was the top trend in Louisiana, and trending nationally as the number three most-used hashtag – even though the questions were far from pretty.

“It may seem like an invitation to be a punching bag, but, in fact, being number one in the Twitter-verse is not such a bad thing,” U-L Lafayette political science professor Pearson Cross observes.

Jindal isn’t Louisiana’s only candidate finding social media has as many pitfalls as benefits.  U.S. Senator and gubernatorial candidate David Vitter tweeted out a picture and caption -- “Chik-Fil-A kind of day” -- following the U.S. Supreme Court’s marriage decision on June 26. It wasn’t entirely well received.

“I think that was probably quite calculated,” Cross says. “It is an appeal to the base. It is an appeal to conservative voters in Louisiana.”

Cross says where the tweet failed is that most Twitter users are not those older conservative voters.

“Same-sex marriage in Louisiana probably has a majority in favor in the demographic that runs in the teens up through the 30s.”

The jury is still out on Rep. John Bel Edwards’ Twitter promotion. His campaign is offering contributors a chance to win a trip to Las Vegas, to see Britney Spears.

“It seems like kind of a tacky ploy, yeah,” Cross reflects. “And Britney Spears, though she’s from Louisiana, doesn’t have a great reputation. On the other hand, this is a chance for him to put some pizazz into his campaign, to add some glamor. So I don’t think it’s such a bad idea.”

In the end, of course, tweets don’t count – not the way the votes do.