Farmers Used Facebook to Harvest Votes for Cochran

It’s impossible to calculate just how important the Farmers for Thad Facebook effort was, but Jennifer Duffy, the Senate analyst for The Cook Political Report, said it undoubtedly contributed to exactly what Cochran needed: a higher turnout in the counties that already were inclined to support him. Murphy said the Cochran campaign also used the Farmers for Thad model for other Facebook sites in the final days of the campaign.

One factor that the soybean growers either don’t know or are unwilling to talk about is how much of an impact Farmers for Thad may have had on the turnout of black voters. Most of the big farmers who belong to organized farm groups in Mississippi are white, but there are black farmers and other black rural residents in Mississippi to whom the Cochran campaign appealed for votes.

It’s unclear who may capitalize on the knowledge gained from the Farmers for Thad Facebook effort. Murphy said the group will support Cochran in the election and will tell tea partiers who are threatening not to vote that a Cochran loss could mean the Republicans won’t take the Senate.

Murphy, of course, says that Cochran himself deserves a lot of credit for stepping up his campaign in the runoff.

But Murphy doesn’t discount the importance of the effort, and he credits Delaney’s technical knowledge.

“By using social media, we were able to take our message out and get it shared in a large part of the state that we wouldn’t have been to able to do on an individual basis,” he said.

The success of the Farmers for Thad Facebook campaign is the biggest development in rural politics this year, and it has many lessons for the future. Farmers have always been influential members in their communities and active in politics. Through Facebook, they may regain some of the influence they have lost as agriculture has mechanized, because they can more easily communicate not only with other farmers but also with their nonfarm neighbors.

It will be interesting to see whether there are more rural Facebook surprises.

National Journal
7/14/14