If the 2008 election saw the beginning of Twitter politics, 2012 may be the race where networked media decisively edges out print among the electronic electorate. A sign of the times: Few on Twitter seem to have heard of the Manchester Union Leader.
How do we know this? Some avid followers of Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker running for the GOP presidential nomination, grew perplexed when news of Gingrich's endorsement by a “Union Leader” appeared in their Twitter feeds Sunday.
Gingrich grabbed the endorsement of the Union Leader in Manchester, NH, over the weekend, a major score for the former House speaker and a disappointment for New Hampshire front-runner Mitt Romney—at least in the traditional gamesmanship of the nomination race, which leans heavily on endorsements in states with early primaries or caucuses.
“A lot of candidates say they're going to improve Washington. Newt Gingrich has actually done that, and in this race he offers the best shot of doing it again,” wrote Union Leader publisher Joseph McQuaid—not himself an actual union leader—in a front-page editorial that ran on Sunday.
“If a union boss says yes 2 Gingrich, that's reason enuff for conservative voters 2 say no,” wrote Jennifer Naskov.
She was quickly corrected by ABC News's Jake Tapper, who broke the news to Naskov that the “union leader” wasn't a labor leader, but rather a newspaper. Naskov took it with ease. "@jaketapper dang! I knew that!! This is what I get for tweeting before my morning coca cola!!! Duh!!!,” she wrote.
The candidate himself took to Twitter on Sunday night to thank the newspaper for their endorsement. But the former academic didn’t take time to school his followers on old-media politics.
The New Hampshire primary is scheduled for Jan. 10, 2012. The Georgia Republican has been making waves in the polls during recent weeks, becoming the most recent candidate to threaten Romney's ostensible front-runner status.
Gingrich's rise has been driven by Twitter. According to Topsy.com, a social-media measurement firm, Gingrich's presence has been slowly rising for the last month. On Oct. 29, he gained more than 800 references in one day; almost a month later he was topping out at more than 15,000. The only significant drop was during the Thanksgiving holiday.
The union kerfuffle? It just drove more Gingrich mentions on Twitter. And those endorsements seem to matter more than a newspaper whose name is only familiar to political wonks.