Who is the great decider of 2008?
It’s here! It’s here! No, not that time of summer when the color of the sky just before dusk resembles a blood orange (although that is here) or the aspen leaves start turning golden delicious yellow (that’s here, too). The moment has arrived that only comes once every four years when media organizations begin rolling out their predictions for what “It” is that will be the single biggest influence on the outcome of the next presidential election.Earlier this year, YouTube.com was prematurely declared the It darling by the media for the 2008 election. Cable news outlets and newspapers across the country chanted in unison their beliefs that the video-sharing website turned Google-worthy phenomenon would be a result-changing force at the polls Nov. 4, 2008.That all changed last week when the Reuters news agency broke away from the pack and ran a story announcing that the X factor next November will actually be Facebook.com. While the majority of the social-networking site’s users can’t drink legally (although that presumably doesn’t stop the mostly college-aged registrants from suffering the occasional bout of alcohol poisoning), pundits are theorizing that in order to ensure victory, candidates must post a profile on the site – and be popular – if they have any hope of winning the support of the supposedly crucial younger voters (who are allegedly harder to attract using traditional campaign methods, you know, because their eyesight is too poor from playing video games to read bumper stickers).If that’s true, then Barack Obama is sitting pretty right now (as of press time, that is) with his 138,434 Facebook “friends.” U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton has had a decent online turnout but is lagging behind the junior senator from Illinois by about 99,053 buddies. Even John McCain and Dennis Kucinich are in on the game, although with only a meager 9,619 and 9,310 pals respectively, they might actually be better off if they removed their profiles altogether.The embarrassment of a poor showing just might be what’s kept Republican front-runner Rudy Giuliani from allowing anyone to cozy up to him on the site. To date he has declined to post a Facebook profile (although someone named Fooliani for Resident is on there with 30 supporters). To be fair, that could also be because he’s still feeling a little stung by his daughter Caroline, who not long ago declared on the site her intention to back Obama. (Be honest – who wouldn’t have killed to be a fly on the wall at the first Giuliani family dinner after that story hit the news wires?)Fortunately for the former mayor of New York, not every media outlet is convinced just yet that Facebook will be the decider in ’08. Last Sunday, The New York Times had an article postulating that the children of candidates could be the difference this campaign season. The paper of record cited examples of Obama, John Edwards and Fred Thompson attempting to attract voters by showcasing their kids on campaign stops from state fairs to ice cream parlors.If the children of candidates had been at play in the 2000 and 2004 presidential elections, though, the result may not have been as sweet for President George W. Bush, whose twin daughters are less “Heidi” and more “Rosemary’s Baby.” Jenna and Barbara were once cited for being minors in possession of alcohol. Jenna was charged for attempting to use a fake I.D. And who can forget the moment when Jenna so gracefully stuck her tongue out at the press corps?In the 2004 race for the White House it wasn’t progeny or a website that generated media buzz. It was college kids with cell phones who had the polls atwitter. Those kids, who were rumored to be unreachable on land lines by those trying to gauge public opinion, were said to be full of political opinions and meant to make a huge impact on Election Day. And, as it turns out, they did. Just not quite as expected. Their less-than-stellar turnout at the voting booths aided the incumbent rather than the challenger, defying the predictions of the (left-wing) news outlets. (John Kerry is still believed to be off somewhere scratching his head, wondering where it all went wrong.)And in the 2000 election, it was the soccer moms who were going to make a difference. Unlike their husbands, who were expected to “vote with their wallets,” it was believed the upper-middle-class suburban women would vote en masse with their hearts. And while they just might have, it just didn’t go quite by the way of media (or Al Gore’s) forecasts. (Florida’s senior citizens are itching for one more shot at conquering those pesky hanging chads.)Still, while their group hasn’t been mentioned yet as being one who could make a difference next November, it’s quite possible the hearts of the soccer moms might come into play again in 2008. Especially since it was reported in March, just before he declared his candidacy, that Senator Obama finally paid $375 to wipe out the 15 outstanding parking tickets he racked up while attending Harvard Law School nearly 20 years ago.Soccer moms everywhere breathed a sigh of relief through their slightly upturned noses upon hearing the news. After all, how could the band of ex-urban women have otherwise supported a man who represents the very culprits who frequently, and inconsiderately, double park and block their luxury SUVs from speedy exits after picking up their post-yoga morning lattes?Sorry, YouTube and Facebook. All apologies to Jack, Emma Claire, Malia and Natasha. Indications are strong that it just might be all about the soccer mom – 2.0 – next Election Day.E-mail questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org