With a measly 22 percent approval rating in January 2011, Arnold Schwarzenegger didn’t exactly leave the California governorship on a high note. Nevertheless, he’s reportedly (read: per an anonymous source in the New York Post) considering a presidential run in 2016. The Post reports that the action star is openly discussing his political ambitions and seeking to file a legal challenge to that pesky constitutional provision that says the president must be a “natural born citizen.” The Republican Schwarzenegger was born in Austria but became a U.S. citizen in 1983.
Word of Schwarzenegger’s presidential aspirations comes on the heels of a newly groomed Ted Nugent. In an interview with the Washington Post this summer, the gun-loving, Obama-hating rocker hinted that he, too, might shoot for the White House in 2016. He’s since denied that he cut his hair for this reason, but the idea is out there nonetheless.
It sounds crazy until you look closer at one of the most important modern metrics for presidential hopefuls: social media support. The 2016 election may be a long way off, but the community Facebook pages have already begun -- with some surprising upshots. The “Ted Nugent for President” Facebook page has, as of Friday, more than 237,000 likes. Sound like a lot? Consider that it beats the “Hillary Clinton for President” page by 75,000 likes, and both appear to have been created around the same time. The Nugent page is not officially affiliated with Nugent, and most of the updates are about what you’d expect: pro-gun rhetoric, liberal vilification and, of course, the occasional Obama-is-just-like-Hitler meme. That considered, it’s still hard to fathom a Nugent presidential bid attracting more than a core group of fringy tea party types, but the size of his page is still worth pondering, inasmuch as social media savvy matters in 21st century politics.
The election of 2016 will be the third presidential race since the explosion of social media. In that respect, the Obama/Romney race was a game-changer, analogous to the Kennedy/Nixon contest of 1960, in which the presence of TV cameras famously tilted the race in favor of the younger, media-savvier JFK. Similarly, in 2012, we saw President Obama dominating the social media sphere in almost every measurable sense, right down to the number of tweets posted about him on Election Day. Anecdotal inklings about the importance of social media in the election were backed up in a January 2013 study from the George Washington Graduate School of Political Management, which found that almost a third of voters said social media was “moderately to extremely influential in their opinions of the candidates and issues.”
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That means all serious 2016 candidates are looking at things like Facebook pages, Twitter followers and the like -- or they’d be foolish not to. It also means that Nugent is currently leading the pack, any hopes for a future President Schwarzenegger will require a bit of legwork. The “Arnold for President” page currently has just over 29,500 likes. While not terribly impressive, it’s still far larger than presidential support pages for Sarah Palin (10,630), Marco Rubio (2,281), Ted Cruz (1,935) and Chris Christie (1,095).
Then again, it’s important to take all this with a grain of salt: A Facebook page supporting “Duck Dynasty’s” Phil Robertson for president has more than 67,000 likes, and he never even said he would run.