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Mobile campaigns to be hot in 2012 presidential race

Matt Hamblen | Jan. 3, 2012
Social networks played an important role in the last U.S. presidential election, but the explosive growth in smartphone usage and the introduction of tablets since 2008 could make or break the candidates for president in 2012.

Dudley added his own warning: "2012 is going to be the year that if a campaign doesn't do anything with mobile, they're dead."

The presidential candidates, including the GOP frontrunners, have shown an awareness of online registration to woo support for their campaigns. These campaign sites can be reached from smartphones and tablets, but the sites often have images and icons designed for desktops and may not be easy to read on a mobile device.

Obama's camp, however, has a set up the website to launch on the iPhone with a mobile version of its larger desktop website, with a direct message -- "Are you in?" -- and a form directly underneath to leave an email address and a ZIP code.

Users are then given the choice of proceeding to the Obama campaign's "mobile menu" or the "full site." However, on this reporter's recent repeated tests of the functionality, clicking on the "mobile menu" only led back to a new "Are you in?" registration page, while clicking on the "full site" tab led quickly to a two-minute YouTube video featuring mostly young people talking about why they've gotten involved in his campaign. Other tabs provide a chance to click to volunteer or donate, among other choices.

On GOP candidate Mitt Romney's site at , the opening page seen on an iPhone is apparently a mini version of the full desktop website, with a tiny image of Romney shaking hands in a crowd; the image can be enlarged with a touch gesture, revealing a space to enter an email address and ZIP code to "join and support" Romney for president. Subsequent pages on the Romney site are full desktop renderings that users must enlarge to be able to read easily.

From Romney's desktop website home page, users are offered a chance to click on an icon to receive mobile text updates about his campaign, but the button was not active on a recent test. Users are also told they can text to 466488 to get the updates. There are ways to use Twitter and Facebook connections as well.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, who surged into first place in GOP polls in mid-December, also uses his full desktop website for his smartphone page, , similar to Romney's official site. On that site, the Gingrich campaign asks supporters for an email address and ZIP code on the front page, requiring a user to stretch the image to find the sign-in spot.

However, a separate site, , jumps right into a social media connection with other supporters and potential supporters that is organized into various sub-sites for "activity," "my page," "members" and "forum." Members' photos and opinions are listed one after another, with some members answering an optional query for whether they plan to vote for Gingrich. One man, Marco Cervantez of San Bernardino, Calif., was recently listed next to his photo as saying: "I'm still weighing my options, but I believe I will vote for Newt Gingrich."


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