‘Text-Friendly Hopefuls . . .’
June 30th, 2007

Washington Post writer Jose Antonio Vargas has touched a lot of bases in preparing a round-up story about the state of the political art of using mobile phones. He writes, in part:

“The way I think about it is, if we can support our ‘American Idol’ contestants by texting, why not our presidential candidates?” said Tim Chambers, co-founder of Media 50 Group, a start-up that focuses on the mobile political space. He is the co-author of a study called “Mobile Media in 21st Century Politics” for the New Politics Institute, a progressive think tank, and until last year was a senior vice president for Sony Pictures Digital and Sony Corporation of America. “The changes that we’ve seen and are seeing in the private sector have yet to truly catch fire in the political space,” Chambers said.

There are already a handful of examples of American politicians using the technology: California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and former senator Rick Santorum (Pa.), both Republicans, used text messaging in their reelection campaigns. But the better examples are found overseas, in presidential elections in the Philippines, South Korea and Spain.

After the surprise outcome of the Spanish race in March 2004, when voters organized through text messaging and voted out the governing Popular Party, the headline in the International Herald Tribune read “Cellphones May Have Tipped the Scales in Spanish Election: Text-Messaging the Revolution.” The following week, a political cartoon featuring a group of election strategists showed a man in the middle saying “Nadie penso en mensajes SMS” (“Nobody thought about SMS messages”).

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