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UW Election Eye 2012

Campaign 2012 through the eyes of UW faculty and students

Topic: campaign oddities

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March 5, 2012 at 12:45 PM

Fishy Robocalls — 'tis the season

King County voters received phony robocalls, claiming the Republican caucuses on March 3 were cancelled.

King County voters received phony robocalls that claimed the Republican caucuses on March 3 were cancelled. (Photo by tj scenes/

Nowadays, robocalling is standard practice for political campaigns. In a presidential election year, almost everyone can expect an automated phone call here and there. This nomination season, voters in contested states, like South Carolina or Ohio, racked up dozens of robotic voice mails. Sometimes it’s Robo-Robert on the other end of the cord, sometimes it’s Barbara Bush. Usually, it’s just annoying.

Nevertheless, setting up an automated phone bank is usually easier than finding flesh-and-blood volunteers. With companies like Republican Robo Calls — who assure the customer they’ve never worked with a Democrat — charging only two to seven cents per call, million dollar campaigns can hardly afford not use them.

Yet for a system supposedly designed to avoid human error, there’s certainly a lot of it. Whether it’s scandalous content, like accusing John McCain of fathering an illegitimate black child in 2000, or just ringing the wrong households, like Rick Santorum phoning Democrats in Michigan, robocalling can be disastrous for both its users and subjects.

The robocalls that peppered Washington state in anticipation of the Republican caucus had their share of trickery as well.


Comments | Topics: Barbara Bush, campaign oddities, Caucuses

March 3, 2012 at 5:18 PM

Ron Paul supporter in Mount Vernon sees caucus conspiracy

Mike Newman, Chair of the Skagit County Republican Party, explains the caucus process to voters in Mount Vernon (Alex Stonehill/UW Election Eye)

MOUNT VERNON — Just as Mike Newman, Chairman of the Skagit County Republican Party, was about to set everyone loose to start the caucus process, a hand shot up.

It was Sam Irwin, a Mount Vernon resident since 2006, requesting a public count of votes for the presidential straw poll, which was to be held in smaller precinct groups moments later.

“I think that it’s something important to the community,” Irwin said later of his request for a public count, “that they should know who is supporting who, and who their area is supporting.”

Irwin, a supporter of Ron Paul, was advocating for this vote on advice from officials in the Paul campaign. They told him to get a public count if he could because there have been reports about caucus locations in other states where the vote counts remained unknown – leading some Paul voters to question the accuracy of the final results.

“You hear about the other [candidates] on the news all the time and nothing is said about Ron Paul… then all of a sudden he’s actually the second in delegates,” said Irwin. “I wanted the vote count because I wanted to see where we were at, I didn’t want somebody saying we lost because we didn’t get enough votes for Ron Paul.”


Comments | Topics: campaign oddities, caucus, Caucuses

March 1, 2012 at 5:44 PM

Robo-polled on a Thursday afternoon

All was pretty quiet here in my third-story grad-student office at the University of Washington, my desk piled high with dusty books. Then my cellphone rang, with an “802” area code. I answered. “Hello, my name is Robert,” a voice told me. “You have been selected to participated in an automated poll.” He/it went on to ask…


Comments | Topics: campaign oddities, University of Washington, WA Caucuses

February 16, 2012 at 6:30 AM

Rick Santorum hits one million…on Temple Run, or how presidential candidates now embrace video games

Photo by

On almost any smartphone or tablet, amid the e-mail clients and various apps, one is likely to find a mobile game or two. Look on Rick Santorum’s iPad and you will see Temple Run.

I discovered this about the presidential candidate’s gaming habits when I spoke to his eldest daughter and son, Elizabeth and John. They said that as a family they don’t have time to play a console game on Xbox, PlayStation, or Wii, so they gather around the iPad to play games while on the campaign trail.

Santorum is not alone in his fondness of the game. Temple Run was one of the 50 most-downloaded apps in the App Store in December 2011, and has over 1.8 million likes on Facebook. The game runs on Apple’s mobile operating system, iOS, and, according to its creators Imangi Studios, it tests “your reflexes as you race down ancient temple walls and along sheer cliffs.”

Sounds like the perfect game for a presidential candidate.

I talked briefly with Santorum in Denver last week, and recounted my conversation with his children about Temple Run. Almost sheepishly, the presidential candidate replied, “When I go home my kids load all this junk on my iPad…I played it once and here I am….It used to be Angry Birds, now it’s Temple Run.”

His campaign manager later tugged his arm to direct him to the next interview, but Santorum wasn’t quite done yet. He asked, “Did they tell you what my high score was?” I said around one million, and he replied, “Yeah, it’s not very good.”

He’s right. Type in “highest score on Temple Run” on YouTube and one finds hundreds of videos with players getting into the multi-millions. To be fair, though, Santorum does have his hands full right now with things other than perfecting his gaming skills.

But there is a more serious aspect to all of this.


Comments | Topics: Barack Obama, campaign oddities, casual games

February 6, 2012 at 10:18 AM

Nevada GOP's fail whale: A warning to all political organizations

ON THE CAMPAIGN TRAIL — Storify is a software that enables a media-rich method of synthesizing and telling of a story. We employ it here to document and interpret key moments in the Nevada Republican Party’s decision to use — and trumpet — technologies such as Google and Twitter to digitally publicize caucus results.

But they failed to provide a crucial element: The analog infrastructure actually required to count handmarked ballots.

Consider this a cautionary tale for all political organizations, including the Republican Party in Washington state, which hosts caucuses slightly less than a month from today.


Comments | Topics: campaign oddities, caucus, Caucuses

January 21, 2012 at 11:03 AM

Hitching a ride on the Cain Train

Herman Cain schools reporters on what American people care about in the press room.

CHARLESTON–Herman Cain fancies himself a man of the people. He preaches, rather than speaks. With his booming baritone, knotted eyebrows and bold gesticulations, Cain’s every word is punctuated with a call to action. No matter who the candidate is, someone needs to keep the voters inspired…and Cain’s nominated himself for the job.

Of course, not everyone wants a performance artist for a public servant. Especially, when his nonsensical campaign videos go viral and his geographical understanding includes imaginary places with an excess of “stan”s. I certainly didn’t take his candidacy seriously. His appeal was a mystery to me.

Not to Nancy McKnew, a boisterous retiree from Georgia. She loved Herman Cain from the very first time she saw him speak. She was very sad to see him drop out.

“He stood for what we stood for,” she said. “He just made sense—which is rare.”


Comments | Topics: campaign oddities, Colbert, College of Charleston

January 20, 2012 at 5:54 PM

America needs to lighten up. And they need to vote.

The crowd at the Stephen Colbert and Herman Cain rally knew what they were getting into the moment Colbert took the stage. He said he hoped this mob didn’t turn into an occupation because if it did, they would be pepper-sprayed in the politest way possible. After all, this is Charleston.

The event was held in a courtyard in front of Randolph Hall at the College of Charleston. Colbert is a native South Carolinian and he thanked himself for being there, “It’s good to be back home. Whoever said you can’t go home again did not have a friend with a private jet. It was easy.”

Students, Staff and the President at the Rally

Colbert said all these students skipping class gave him confidence that the future of our country was bright. He promised to write them all a note of excuse to get them out of their assignments.

But that was no joke to the crowd of about 3,500 students, staff and community members who were skipping their usual Friday afternoon requirements to be in the audience.


Comments | Topics: campaign oddities, College of Charleston, Herman Cain

January 19, 2012 at 4:45 AM

Crashing the debate green room

MYRTLE BEACH — On Monday I crashed the debate “green room” of the Republican presidential candidates.

The debate was my first glimpse at how the press and the candidates maneuver around each other at a televised event. I assumed anyone with a press badge would automatically be seated front and center, close to the stage. Instead, the majority of the press sat in a filing room, watching a live feed of the debate and straining the Wi Fi with snarky updates (I’m looking at you @TheFix).

I grabbed fellow UWElectionEye contributor Will Mari, and we set off to find the entrance. Not familiar with the Myrtle Beach Convention Center’s layout or where the actual debate floor was, Will led us up an escalator — a turned-off escalator.

That should have been our first clue. 


Comments | Topics: Ann Romney, Callista Gingrich, campaign oddities

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