The new game of politics – Why social media is so important on the campaign trail

The Illinois gubernatorial election is coming up in November of this year. But if you ask many people in the Metro East or downstate Illinois, it certainly doesn’t seem like it. Politicians used to come to the small communities in downstate as part of their election barnstorming. But this year, the top candidates have spent very little time in southern Illinois.

Part of the reason is the power of Chicago politics. The other parts taking the blame range from social media to advertising dollars, and even the diminished power of traditional forms of media like TV and newspapers. Republican consultant John Hancock says what we are seeing is not unique to this campaign, nor is it unique to Illinois.

“It’s not just here, it’s all over the country,” says Hancock. “We see politicians increasingly turning to social media as their outlet to communicate with the public.”

That’s because social media advertising is inexpensive and you can target people in particular communities and with particular beliefs. And when it comes to getting out the vote, that is exactly what you need.

The other aspect at play is being able to control your message. More politicians are finding themselves on the wrong end of a speaking gaffe that can haunt you the entire campaign or derail your campaign completely. Michael Kelley of The Kelley Group consulting firm says the evidence for what can happen when you go off script has been apparent here in the past.

“If you get an inexperienced candidate who doesn’t have control of their own message, doesn’t have the experience of dealing with the media, then they could say something that is fatal to their campaign, and that’s what happened to Todd Akin,” Kelley says.

Akin’s campaign was derailed after an interview on Fox 2 several years ago that went viral when he made the claim that women’s bodies could protect themselves against legitimate rape.

He said, back in 2012, “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the whole thing down.”

Akin says the quote was taken out of context for political purposes, but the damage had already been done.

So by not holding press conferences and town hall meetings, politicians can sidestep those gaffes. Gregory…

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