Simpson Leading Race for Governor… on Facebook

The Powell Tribune

There are few solid methods to determine who’s leading Wyoming’s gubernatorial race. But if the social networking site Facebook is any indication, Colin Simpson is doing pretty well.

The Cody Republican put out a news release June 24 touting his campaign page on Facebook hitting 2,000 followers. As of yesterday, Simpson lead the Republican pack with 2,063 “likers,” ahead of the campaign pages of Ron Micheli (1,785 followers), Matt Mead (1,653) and Rita Meyer (1,364).*

In an email, Simpson campaign manager Joe Milczewski said he believes the personal responses the candidate and his wife have made to commenters on the page have fueled the Facebook support, along with the campaign’s emphasis on Internet interaction.

“We made a decision early on that we wanted to focus on the online community and use it as a way to have real time conversations with the voters,” Milczewski said.

“I’ve made online interaction a focus of my campaign, and I will do the same when I am governor,” Simpson said in the news release.

The two leading Democratic candidates, Leslie Petersen and Pete Gosar, substantially trail their Republican counterparts with 225 and 197 followers, respectively. There’s little doubt that Petersen and Gosar put themselves at a disadvantage by not declaring their intent to run until May 28 — the last day of the filing period and more than four months after the first GOP candidate, Meyer, officially announced her candidacy.

It may also have something to do with the fact that the Democrats don’t appear to have as much support as the Republicans this year.

A Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of 500 “likely voters,” conducted June 22 and released June 26, showed that all four of the leading GOP candidates have significant leads over their Democratic rivals.

Wrote Rasmussen, “not one Republican candidate earns less than 44% support. Meanwhile, neither ex-state Democratic chairwoman Leslie Peterson (sic) or Pete Gosar picks up more than 28% of the vote.”

The poll indicated that Meyer enjoys the greatest support (between 51 and 52 percent) when matched up against the Dems — a finding Meyer touted on her Facebook and Twitter pages.

“In the contest for Wyoming Governor for the fall, I’m the candidate most able to carry conservative issues forward,” she posted.

Of course, it’s a little premature to be talking about Republicans vs. Democrats; up first is the Aug. 17 inter-party primary election. So, perhaps more interesting in the Rasmussen survey was a question asking respondents for their impression of each candidate.

Mead came out as the most favorably viewed, and all four GOP frontrunners came in above the Democrats. For simplicity, I’ve combined the very/somewhat favorable impressions and the very/somewhat unfavorable impressions in a table.

Data from Rasmussen Reports. Margin of Error, +/- 4.5%, with a 95% level of confidence

To my disappointment, the Rasmussen report did not straight-up ask the Likely Voters who they’ll support in the primary, which, for me at least, leaves the races a big unknown. Facebook followers may not be a reliable campaign weather vane, either. For example, they aren’t necessarily Wyoming residents and can “like” multiple candidates. After all, Kevin Seney, a Republican who isn’t planning on running for governor until 2014, led all candidates in Facebook followers for several months.

If you’re interested, here’s a graph of the candidates’ Facebook followers since January:

If you’re looking for theories as to why Meyer trails, it’s worth noting that her original Facebook page, set up in January, was scrapped in favor of new one in March, losing the followers along with the page.