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Campaigners take to the wires, walls

Katie Perry | Monday, January 31, 2005

Blending the innovation of new media outlets and the reliability of classic self-marketing strategies, the six tickets in the student body presidential/vice presidential race are in the midst of a campaign surge.

This July, national presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry urged viewers and attendees of the Democratic National Convention to visit his Web site, “something that Franklin Roosevelt could never have said in his acceptance speech.”

The fusion of traditional and new styles during the 2004 national presidential race is reminiscent of Notre Dame’s 2005 contest. Candidates for student body president and vice president, much like the Bush-Cheney and Kerry-Edwards camps, are mobilizing voters both via face-to-face interaction as well as through Internet campaigns.

The tickets have taken their campaign strategies from the dorms to the wires by incorporating various online venues. In launching a multi-faceted Internet campaign, the Dave Baron-Lizzi Shappell ticket has capitalized on the incalculable versatility of the web.

“We are using technology to mobilize people through TheFacebook[.com], AIM profiles, our online website and campaign e-mail updates,” Baron said.

TheFacebook.com has exploded into a campus-wide obsession since its debut this fall. The electronic database allows college students to create a profile, connect with other students and join specific interest groups.

Joining the ranks among some the site’s more popular listings – “ND Squirrel Fans,” “Irish Drinking Society” and “Anti-Guy Who Participates in Class Too Much” – are a slew of groups devoted to the individual tickets.

Along with Baron and Shappell, the Mark Healy-Bob Costa, Alec White-Erik Powers, Will Marra-Pete Harig and James Leito-Jordan Bongiovanni tickets have initiated groups on the TheFacebook.com in an effort to exploit the free space frequented by thousands of students everyday.

Freshman Matt Decker noted both pros and cons to utilizing TheFacebook.com.

“TheFacebook[.com] is somewhat effective because of how many students use the Web site, but since it’s very informal, and seen as a ‘time waster’ for those who use it might risk losing credibility,” Decker said.

Though the Craig Brede-Vijay Ramanan ticket is the only one without a group listing on TheFacebook.com, they joined their competition in launching an interactive campaign Web site.

“We are going to make it very clear that we are a serious ticket with a high respect and capability for these jobs, and I think that is evident in our Web site,” Ramanan said.

While each differs in style and presentation, they all follow a similar structure. Most feature a main page with a mission statement and photograph of the candidates. There are also menu bars containing site components such as biographies, platforms, feedback forms and downloadable media.

Aside from efforts implemented to reach students via the Internet, the campaigns are also relying on classic techniques like fliers and face-to-face interaction to attract potential voters.

In addition to traditional posters and dorm visits, the Baron-Shappell ticket emp-hasizes the importance of human contact during a campaign season.

“We are starting a word-of-mouth campaign to convey our message,” Baron said. “With point people and secondary people in every dorm, we can reach most people and get our vision out on campus.”

Leito and Bongiovanni agreed face-to-face interaction is an advantageous method to garner votes. According to the ticket’s Web site, both candidates will be available to speak with students at popular campus sites twice a week during scheduled times.

“Our campaign strategy is to be honest and up-front with students,” Leito said.

For sophomore political science major Joe Brutto, the most effective campaign technique is the tried-and-true style of physically conversing with the candidates.

“There really is no substitute for meeting the people who will vote for you and

making a personal connection,” Brutto said. “Although new media campaigning allows candidates to connect to more people than ever before, the technique is very impersonal and not as effective as more traditional methods of campaigning.”

Other students, like Decker, cite the various advantages new media outlets can offer to candidates and voters alike.

“The use of Web sites makes it much easier to inform students about the individual campaigns, as for many of us it’s difficult to make time in our schedules to go to speeches,” Decker said. “Web sites allow the candidates to reach a large number of people easily and make it easier for students to follow the different campaigns on their own time.”

Regardless of the advantages and disadvantages of the campaigning techniques, the six tickets are dedicated to getting their message out to the study body by all means possible.

“We plan on doing anything and everything we can to get to students,” Healy said.

For the White-Powers ticket, this means turning to more unconventional modes of campaigning.

“We challenge the other tickets to a pentathlon,” White said. “Events will include dodge ball, a water balloon duel, an Iron Chef competition, retaking the SAT’s and a Quarter Dog eating contest.”

Not to be outdone, Marra and Harig are also integrating their own form of originality to reach students.

“First, we’re going to start off with a flying V, followed by a triple deke to a wrister through the five-hole, and then cap off the W with a shrimp on the barbie,” Marra said.