White House hopefuls’ first big decision: How to announce they're running in 2012

The dozen or so Republicans who will soon announce their bids for the White House want to stand apart from the crowd.
 
The candidates’ creativity will be tested with their decisions on how to tell the world they want to defeat President Obama in 2012. 

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In politics, first impressions have always been important. But in the age of Twitter and Facebook, they will take on a new level of significance.

 Of course, some of the candidates running will not be new faces, but they will seek to offer fresh and compelling reasons why voters should care about what they have to say.
 
The 2008 cycle offered a varied mix of presidential campaign announcements.
 
Both Obama and Hillary Clinton made news by proclaiming their presidential bids online, Obama in a Web video e-mailed to his list of supporters and Clinton via a YouTube video. Obama followed it up with a rally and speech in early February on the steps of the old state capitol in Springfield, Ill.
 
Vice President Biden’s presidential announcement in 2008 was a public-relations disaster. Biden officially launched his bid at the same time he was quoted as calling Obama “clean.”
 
Former Sen. John Edwards (D-N.C.) made his bid known on “The Daily Show” before opting for a formal announcement from the lower 9th Ward in New Orleans, a backdrop that evoked one of former President George W. Bush's biggest missteps.
 
Sen. Chris Dodd (D-Conn.) made his announcement on Don Imus’s radio show, while former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) and former New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D) opted for the more serious venues of the weekly Sunday shows. Huckabee announced on NBC’s “Meet the Press”; Richardson on ABC’s “This Week.”

Mitt Romney (R) served as governor of Massachusetts, but he announced his presidential campaign in his home state of Michigan, at the Henry Ford Museum of Innovation. Romney’s father served as governor of Michigan, which was a key early-voting state in the 2008 Republican presidential primary.

The eventual Republican nominee, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), chose “The Late Show With David Letterman” to launch his presidential run.
 
Veteran Democratic pollster Peter Hart cautioned 2012 hopefuls against choosing late-night or a venue like the “The Daily Show” for a presidential announcement, warning it’s a move that could backfire in a sour political climate with a high unemployment rate. 
 
“I'm not a gimmick guy,” said Hart. “I think you want to make an announcement that reflects your seriousness about being president. The ability to find that locale, that backdrop and the crowd that allows you to say it in the right way is important."
 
For Republicans in 2012, GOP pollster Tyler Harber said highly rated conservative talk shows are an attractive option for candidates, particularly for Huckabee, who hosts one himself.
 
“You always have a target population in mind that you want to reach when you announce,” he said. “And getting the earned media about how you announce is just as important as what you say.”
 
Clinton’s YouTube announcement is a prime example. It offered the notoriously careful campaign the sort of control it wanted for the announcement, and the choice of venue was revolutionary at the time. 
 
“Four years ago, just the act of using online technology to do this stuff was in and of itself newsworthy,” said online consultant and founder of Epolitics.com Colin Delany. “Now it's just par for the course.”
 
A YouTube video in 2012? Probably a snoozer. A Twitter announcement? Much more likely.
 
Another new possibility, said Harber, is an announcement that employs a live online video feed, which operates like a tele-townhall. A candidate could invite supporters to the live feed and even take questions or interact with preselected online viewers as part of his or her announcement. 
 
“In the end, it wouldn't surprise me if we just see a multi-channel blitz,” said Delany, who noted that the vast reach of social media lends itself to an announcement blasted through every one of the candidate’s channels and designed to completely saturate online media.
 
Should former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin (R) decide to jump in, that's probably the most likely option for the social-media maven, who boasts massive followings on Facebook and Twitter.
 
“Beyond that, I don't think there are too many new options on the tech side,” Delany said. “But we've got a couple months, so I guess you never know what new piece of technology might come out.”

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