Less than 24 hours after the historic healthcare vote, both Twitter and Facebook conservatives wasted little time in broadcasting their widespread discontent, warning House Democrats that their partisan passing of the bill might be their political death warrant.
While boisterous protests from Tea Party conservatives were unheeded by the majority party inside the Capitol, discontented citizens are quickly adapting the tools of online communication to get an early jump on the November midterm elections.
The most prominent target in the crosshairs of the conservative social media opposition is Bart Stupak (D.-Mich.), the “pro-life Democrat” who dropped his objection to Obamacare’s funding of abortions in exchange for a presidential Executive Order that Republicans and legal experts say will not change anything.
On Sunday night, the Stupak coalition of pro-life House Democrats gradually caved-in from opposing the bill until there were enough votes to carry the House legislation to passage.
Stupak’s vote in favor of the bill has already brought political dividends for Dan Benishek, the candidate planning to run against Stupak in November’s election for Michigan’s 1st District.
The American Spectator reported that Benishek’s Facebook fan page jumped to 1,700 members shortly after Stupak’s decision. By Monday afternoon, Benishek’s fan base hit 14,601 fans and grows whenever the webpage is refreshed.
In the Twitter-sphere, Stupak is also taking a beating from the opposition.
Benishek’s Twitter account proclaimed “You betcha I plan to beat Bart!". Currently, Benishek’s Twitter account lists him as having 2,883 followers and gradually gaining support.
In a survey of trending topics from major U.S. cities currently listed on Twitter, Stupak’s name is a hot item in Washington D.C., Dallas/Ft. Worth, Seattle, Baltimore, Houston, Philadelphia and San Francisco.
While Twitter posts on Stupak show mixed reaction to his decision to cave in favor of the legislation, the ability of Benishek’s Facebook page to gain a rock star following overnight testifies to the possible role that social media will factor into the conservative cause in November.
Conservatives have long been criticized for their lack of ability to tap into the benefits that social media has to offer for political campaigns.
The need for conservatives to use social media to push their ideas was a topic addressed at this year’s Conservative Political Action Conference and has been cited as a key factor in President Barack Obama’s ability to tap into a broad audience.
Benishek hopes to use the social media tools to his advantage in the upcoming campaign against Stupak. Based on comments from his Facebook page, many online supporters living outside his district have already expressed the desire to donate to his congressional campaign.
The 1st Congressional District in Michigan has leaned Democratic recently and was considered a safe Democratic seat before Stupak’s controversial healthcare stance. Stupak, in his ninth term, won reelection in 2008 against Republican nominee Tom Casperson with 65% of the vote. However, the district’s constituents have also voted for President George W. Bush in 2000 and 2004.