The countdown has begun; the 2012 United States presidential election is a mere 20 days away. It seems that the entire country has election fever, from politically-charged Facebook statuses, never-ending Internet blog posts, humorous memes following debates (yes, there is now a @FiredBigBird Twitter account), and bumper sticker after bumper sticker. It’s easy to forget that the candidates themselves (or I should say, their campaigns) are partially responsible for much of the hoopla and millions of dollars that go into this self-promotion.
The New York Times has a tool called The 2012 Money Race that allows you to track both major party candidates and see exactly how much money they have raised (and spent) throughout the campaign. The results are truly staggering. For instance, in this 2012 US presidential race, we learned that over $1 billion has been spent on campaigning. Where does all of this money go, you ask? That’s a good question. According to OpenSecrets.org, the 2012 presidential candidates have spent over $42 million on travel alone.
I can’t help but wonder how much money these politicians could save if they used video conferencing to campaign. Of course, I understand that voting is a very personal process for many citizens and the candidates want to deliver their speeches in-person whenever possible, but perhaps the presidential candidates could reach even more voters if they spoke to them over video. Imagine a college campus where the students were able to see the candidate in crystal-clear HD and then ask him questions in real-time. They’d see every facial expression, hear every vocal inflection and wouldn’t miss a single word. I would imagine there would be quite a number of Americans that would relish the opportunity to participate in such a forum. Not to mention, the candidates could make these speeches and conduct these Q&A sessions during their normal routine. For example, they could use their iPad to speak to voters while they are riding in a limousine to their next appearance.
It’s true when they say that running for president is a lot like running a medium-sized business for two years. When you have hundreds of millions of fundraising dollars to allocate, it only makes sense for the candidates and their respective campaigns to take a closer look at spending as it relates to reach. If you can use a technology like HD video conferencing to reach even more voters in more places (ahem, swing states), why wouldn’t you? Sure, it will be impossible to shake hands and kiss babies over video, but the experience is so darn lifelike, it truly is the next best thing.