Political observers are rumbling with news of a little known candidate’s windfall online fundraising following a faux pas by his opponent earlier this week. However, as South Carolina Democrat Rob Miller, a candidate for Congress in 2010, reaps rewards of his opponent’s outburst during President Obama’s speech Wednesday, Miller’s own rivals aim to cash in, too.
A search for the recently-popular term, “you lie” turns up ads for Miller’s opponent, Republican Joe Wilson. “Stand with Joe Wilson,” declares the ad, which links to his campaign site.
The phrase has been featured in Google’s top ranking search terms since Wilson uttered it during the President’s speech on healthcare before Congress. Wilson shouted, “You lie!” in response to Obama’s claim that his proposed reforms would not apply to illegal immigrants.
“I should not have disrespected the President during his speech. But I am not sorry for fighting back against the dangerous policies of liberal Democrats. I will not back down,” notes Wilson’s Web site, which features a post-speech video, and suggests that he is “under attack.” Wilson’s campaign is also targeting ads to searches on “Joe Wilson” and “Rob Miller.”
It’s no surprise Wilson feels threatened. Several left-leaning and Democratic entities, including party organizations and ActBlue, a group that raises funds online for Democratic candidates, have helped rake in donations for Miller via e-mail pleas. ActBlue reported this afternoon that it had raised over $780,000 from over 21,000 supporters for Miller’s campaign. People can also donate through Miller’s own campaign site, which currently features just a homepage and donation page.
While Miller’s tale of fundraising luck grabs headlines, Wilson and others are running Google ads in the hopes of appealing to those on the other side. Republican Congressman Tom Price of Georgia is one. His Voice for Freedom PAC is running ads showing up in results for searches on “you lie,” “Obama healthcare speech,” as well as the names of the two South Carolina candidates. The ads drive users to a Web page collecting donations and contact information through a petition opposing “government takeover of health care.” The page also links to Price’s Price Freedom Fund, a joint fundraising committee aiming for a Republican majority in the House of Representatives.
Miller’s campaign does not appear to be buying search advertising, which — for political campaigns, advocacy groups, and corporations alike — has become the obvious rapid online ad response to news events. For an obscure candidate running in an election more than one year away, Miller has struck it rich. Yet, some would argue spending a relatively small amount on advertising now could help garner even more money while the proverbial iron is hot.
Popularity of terms related to the incident is already waning since Wednesday, when “Joe Wilson” was the top trending term according to Google, and “You Lie” followed in 11th place. “Rob Miller for Congress” came in at No. 75 the day of the speech, and rose to No. 58 the following day, when “Joe Wilson” continued to dominate at No. 7. Today, “Joe Wilson for Congress” was in 51st place as of this afternoon, while the others have fallen from Google’s top 100 list.
The speedy response from both sides, be it in the form of fundraising e-mail pleas, reactionary videos, or search ads, is indicative of the evolution of online political campaigns. For a growing number of campaigns and organizations, the notion of exploiting a timely news-driven event to milk sign-ups and donations online is no longer met with skepticism, even when it means spending money on ads.
Needless to say, political paraphernalia purveyors are taking advantage of the “you lie” brouhaha. T-shirt seller CafePress is promoting its “Funny anti-Wilson T-Shirt” through Google ads. The shirt, which reads, “Joe Wilson ‘Tourette’s is my Pre-Existing Condition,’ takes a cue from JoeWilsonIsYourPreExistingCondition.com, a new site that blames the Congressman for an array of inappropriate things like heating fish in the office microwave.