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Iowa politicos: new media changing presidential campaign

BY JENNY EARL | NOVEMBER 11, 2011 7:20 AM

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Political observers say new media are changing the way candidates campaign for the presidency.

The increasing presence of media coverage in Iowa is important for the election and will likely increase as presidential contests move closer, said UIPeter Damiano, one of the organizers of the Conflict and Political Discourse symposium on campus this week.

"There were hundreds of thousands of news stories following the Iowa caucuses last time," he said. "And there's expected to be even more [in 2012]."

And the volume of coverage Iowa receives has a large influence on voters, Damiano said, especially in a race where there's no clear front-runner.

"When you have an open field like this, [media coverage] becomes much more important," Damiano said.

Iowa Democratic Party Chairwoman Sue Dvorsky said the use of social media has changed the way both voters and candidates interact throughout the campaigning process, Dvorsky said.

"Four years ago, people weren't twittering; you didn't really know what was going on," she said.

UI political-science Professor Caroline Tolbert said early contests such as the Iowa caucuses and New Hampshire primary are more critical for candidates than a national debate.

"Since 2000, there's been a punctuated change," Tolbert said. "Doing better than media expectations has become more important in selecting candidates in large part because of the shift to new media and the viral effect of coverage coming out of Iowa."

Toblert said the easy access to social media is something candidates can benefit from at the Iowa caucuses. Still, she said, campaigns can't just rely on media to reach voters. Instead, hopefuls have to reach out, often face-to-face.

"Iowans will carry that burden for the country — to sort out the candidates," she said.

Damiano, the director of the Public Policy Center, said having discussions similar to the ones during this week's symposium help highlight the issue of political discourse and how it relates to the attention Iowa is receiving over the caucuses.

"[Politics] is not about everyone holding hands and singing 'Kumbaya' around a campfire," Damiano said. "Politics is a contact sport."


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