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Updated: May 7, 2012 22:54 IST

The powerful little blue bird

  • AP
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The microblog is playing an important role in U.S. campaign.

U.S. President Barack Obama is on Twitter. So is his presumed Republican challenger in the November election, Mitt Romney. And so are all the voters following the contest, whether they know it or not.

Candidates, strategists, journalists and political junkies have all flocked to the networking hub, where information from the mundane to the momentous is shared .

While relatively few voters are on Twitter — a study by the Pew Research Center found that about 13 per cent of U.S. adults have joined the site — it's become an essential tool for campaigns to test-drive themes and make news with a group of politically wired “influencers” who share those messages with the broader world.

When a voter is exposed to any info on the race, chances are it's been through the Twitter filter first.

Four years ago, Twitter was still in relative infancy, and just 1.8 million tweets were sent on Election Day 2008. Now, Twitter gets that many approximately every eight minutes.

Radio, TV and the Internet all prompted campaigns to adapt in the past, but radio and television are top-down media at heart from the broadcaster to the public. Never before has a grassroots technology like Twitter given voice and power to millions and given candidates a real-time way to monitor the effects of messages and change them on the fly.

The Romney campaign sought to seize advantage after Democratic strategist Hilary Rosen remarked that Mr. Romney's wife, Ann, a stay-at-home mother of five sons, had “never worked a day in her life”.

After the comments exploded on Twitter the Romney campaign launched a Twitter feed by the candidate's wife. “I made a choice to stay home and raise five boys. Believe me, it was hard work,” Ann Romney said in her first tweet. “All moms are entitled to choose their path,” she said in her second.

That helped cast Democrats as unsympathetic to women who stay home with children a score for the Romney campaign that went far beyond the Twitter audience.

The Obama team deployed Michelle Obama to push back on the issue.

“Every mother works hard and every woman deserves to be respected,” the First Lady tweeted.

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