Can social media and Big Bird turn debate loss into a win for Obama?
Last night, President Obama turned in what most observers widely agreed was a terrible debate performance. You didn’t need a poll to tell you who won. But CNN did one anyway that showed that 67 percent of people who watched thought Mitt Romney gave the president a smack down.
And he did.
But as the debate ended, I wondered how it would get spun the next day by pundits? Because this, ultimately, can matter as much as the actual debate performances.
Back in 2000, I remember Al Gore crushing George Bush in the first debate in 2000. But the next day, everyone was talking about Gore smirking and rolling his eyes. That became the narrative, and Gore never really recovered. Yes, I know he won the popular vote, but he seemed lost the rest of the campaign.
Could that happen again? After Romney’s win, I’ve seen two clear trends emerging.
First, there’s lots of fact checking pointing out a long list of Romney lies. Now, my feeds skew liberal, so I’m guessing conservatives are doing the same with Obama. In either case, in our post-fact society, I’m not sure how much truth or accuracy sways the public opinion.
But here’s the second, more interesting trend: Every time I look up today, there’s a picture of Big Bird on the TV, or Facebook, or Twitter. For awhile, “Sesame Street” was trending on Twitter.
Even the @SesameStreet got into the act:
Big Bird: My bed time is usually 7:45, but I was really tired yesterday and fell asleep at 7! Did I miss anything last night?
— Sesame Street (@sesamestreet) October 4, 2012
So far, that tweet has been re-tweeted 11,257 times.
And then there were the photos:
And PBS even got into the act, paying for this promoted tweet to respond to Romney’s threat to cut funding for public broadcasting:
PBS is trusted, valued and essential. See why at valuepbs.org. (please retweet!)
— PBS (@PBS) October 4, 2012
Meanwhile, the Big Bird focus was seeping back into mainstream media. CNN did a fact check on whether Romney could really kill Big Bird. And several times this afternoon, when I looked up at the TV screen in the newsroom, I saw a picture of Big Bird behind Wolf Blitzer.
Even Obama, so listless Wednesday night, so lacking in good zingers, seemed energized by the whole Big Bird meme. At this rally, he delivered a line that trumped anything else he managed at the debate: ”Thanks goodness somebody is finally getting tough on Big Bird.” Someone in the crowd then yells, “Elmo!”
Again, Romney creamed Obama. So the next day, is this what you want everyone talking about? Your plan to whack Big Bird? It will be interesting to see whether this social media support for Big Bird and mocking of Romney will turn victory into defeat for him.