Let me start right here and congratulate Change Maryland and its head Larry Hogan for cracking the 20,000 supporter mark on Facebook. Considering they were at the 12,000 mark just over three months ago, that’s pretty good for a nonpartisan political group. When you consider the lone statewide race this year pits Ben Cardin and his 3,833 Facebook ‘likes’ against Dan Bongino and his 3,335 Facebook ‘likes,’ having a total which far exceeds their sum is a pretty good accomplishment. If I sold a book to each of the Change Maryland supporters I’d be a happy (and modestly wealthy) man!
They also had their piece to say about it, but I’m not done yet so stick with me.
Change Maryland announced today that it surpassed 20,000 members as it emerges as the leading organization raising questions about Governor Martin O’Malley’s record. The spike in growth coincided with Change Maryland’s research into the metrics by which state economies are judged – tax payer migration, employment statistics and retaining small businesses.
Since Governor Martin O’Malley’s term began in 2007, Maryland has dramatically lagged the region in all three indicators according to federal government data from the Internal Revenue Service, the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the U.S. Census Bureau. These findings follow a report in which Change Maryland quantified the number of tax and fee increases since 2007 which total 24 separate revenue-raising measures that remove an additional $2.4 billion out of the economy annually. Such reports have caused the O’Malley Administration to lash out at the organization with ill-conceived attacks that have only assisted in gaining new followers.
“We’ve pulled back the curtain on the dismal results of this Administration, and Governor O’Malley doesn’t like it,” said Change Maryland Chairman Larry Hogan. “Losing 40,000 jobs, 31,000 residents of tax paying households and 6500 businesses coincides with the largest tax hikes in Maryland’s history.”
Change Maryland has more than twice as many Facebook followers as the state Democratic and Republican parties combined. It is the largest and fastest growing, non-partisan, grassroots organization advocating for government accountability and fiscal responsibility.
While I believe Hogan is correct about the Facebook numbers, I suspect that’s only in social media. Trust me, if either state party wanted to reach 20,000 people in a hurry they could. But support for a political party isn’t all that common for social media, which, by its very nature, caters more to the 90 percent who don’t care about politics much until Election Day is nigh than to the 3 of 100 who are junkies like me. If you want some idea of the political role in social media, take Change Maryland’s 20,000 and consider that the Baltimore Orioles have 389,621 – but they’re dwarfed by the Baltimore Ravens, who have 1,118,429 ‘likes.’
So as it turns out Change Maryland has a little room to grow. I’m not saying they’ll ever get to the level of the Ravens because if that were true Larry Hogan would be a shoo-in for Governor. He’s not.
But the political world is far more than social media. If Change Maryland is smart – and I suspect they’re pretty sharp – they are getting more contact information from these 20,000 Facebook friends and seeing how well particular messages respond. Change Maryland knows just where its bread is buttered, and it’s patently obvious that the narrative about Martin O’Malley being a tax-and-spend governor who’s driving businesses out of Maryland is a potential gold mine for any Republican candidate and pitfall for a Democrat – particularly Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, who O’Malley seems to be grooming as a heir apparent.
It would also be very interesting to find out what kind of crossover appeal the Change Maryland group has. They claim to be bipartisan, which anyone who wants to win elections wants to do, but the question which lingers with me is just how much Democratic support are they receiving? I’m not sure even Change Maryland knows the answer, since a lot of social media consists of anecdotal evidence about the impact of events and messages.
But when you consider that it took a group born in the spring of 2011 a year to reach 12,000 Facebook members but just three months more to add on another 8,000, you see there’s something brewing. Particularly for the perpetual underdogs in the Maryland Republican Party, grassroots are important. We haven’t heard Hogan make any 2014 announcement yet, but he may well have some boots on the ground already.