President Obama focuses on building online juggernaut while GOP immersed in debates

Tonight we will get another indication of what 19 debates and all the rancor between the final four candidates in the Republican race for the nomination has created and what it will mean going forward. According to every poll to which you may subscribe, Mitt Romney is either going to win by double digits or by a very close margin. What cannot be debated is that Republican candidates seem to be spending more time on-air attacking each other, rather than the real focus of this campaign, President Barack Obama.

Anyone who has been watching the airwaves and the myriad of “news” shows can readily attest to the broadcast media’s fascination with the soap opera that is being played out each and every week. Just this morning, Herman Cain appeared on the Today Show and spent most of the interview discussing why he was endorsing Newt Gingrich and not Mitt Romney.  As broadcast networks look for ratings and engaging programming, the Republicans have delivered on a silver platter.

Meanwhile, Campaign Obama is beginning to kick its online strategy into higher gear. Monday on the Google home page a “directional link” appeared that asked the millions of people using the search engine to tune in to a special online forum being held by the President.

The President would be answering questions from voters around the country – a very smart tactic to generate even greater affinity and loyalty to the President and his reelection effort online. Is all of this working? Let’s take a look at the numbers from last week, now that we’re on the eve of the Florida primary.

Facebook Friends

Mitt Romney: 1,410,659 – up 35,377
Ron Paul: 815,420, – up 29,127
Newt Gingrich: 266,378 – up 18,161
Rick Santorum:  96,654 – up 10,249
President Barack Obama: 24,881,823 – up 175,750

Mitt Romney’s page is featuring another of his “Belief in America” 30 second spots focused on the American dream of every immigrant.  Romney enjoyed the biggest week-over-week jump in friends online this week.

While the focus today is Florida, both Ron Paul and Rick Santorum are spending time posting content about their campaign swings through Colorado and Nevada. Santorum is in the midst of a “36 Hour Fan Raiser” as his campaign is realizing that they need to jumpstart online engagement. Their goal is to reach 100,000 fans by midnight Tuesday. As of Tuesday morning the campaign is sitting about 3,500 short.

Despite all the media attention and focus, Newt Gingrich seems to have more folks following him on Twitter than wanted to be fans or friends on Facebook. His page today focuses on his plan for the first 30 days of the Gingrich administration. He is laying out his plan while his rivals haven’t spent any time online doing that.

As President Obama’s campaign kicks in online, the volume-metrics on his effort are staggering.  Nothing seems to be slowing down his online juggernaut. In the past week, coming off his State of the Union address and Online forum, the President has generated the largest weekly increase yet – up 175,750 friends in just the last week!  There is no debate here.

As for the chatter over at Twitter… Here’s the latest scoop:

Newt Gingrich: 1,430, 706 – up 11,120
Ron Paul: 347,242 – up 15,791
Mitt Romney: 303,893 – up 15,481
Rick Santorum: 101,517 – up 9,275
President Barack Obama: 12,245,624 – up 141, 084

It’s pretty clear that the Santorum camp is in serious trouble online, with no real way to close the gap between Romney and Gingrich. All of the debate appearances have done little to strengthen his online community.

For the Gingrich folks, it seems that while the former Speaker has a huge number of “followers,” a relatively few folks have decided to be “friends.”. There is a growing correlation between “friends” and supporters online and as such the Speaker will need more than Sheldon to carry him to the finish line.

As for Ron Paul, he continues to hang in there with a cadre of loyal supporters that could make him the real force to be reckoned with down the road. A Romney win tonight may signal a new day for the former Governor. It appears of late he may be turning his sights on the real adversary for this prize.

Until the focus changes dramatically, President Obama and his top-notch online team continues to drive a huge divide between his campaign and his would be competitors. Debates have become a great distraction for the GOP and in the midst of all of this the Obama marketing machine is taking full advantage.