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Looking for friends, and a few votes: On his MySpace page, presidential hopeful Joseph Biden shares that he's a Scorpio from Wilmington, Del.
Looking for friends, and a few votes: On his MySpace page, presidential hopeful Joseph Biden shares that he's a Scorpio from Wilmington, Del. (Myspace.com)
By Paul Farhi
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 25, 2007

On his MySpace page, Joe, 64, says he's a Scorpio from Wilmington, Del., and that he went to the University of Delaware and Syracuse Law School. His profile indicates that he's looking for "friends" on MySpace. At the moment, he has 1,199 of them on his page, including "Maya," "Honey" and "Parts Boy."

Bill, 59, from Santa Fe, N.M., says on his MySpace page that he's 6 feet 2, "Latino/Hispanic" and "straight. " He also says he's on the site for "networking [and] friends." And he's a Scorpio, too!

Oh, and one more thing: Both Joe and Bill seem very interested in becoming the next president of the United States. In fact, Joe (a.k.a. Sen. Joe Biden, Democrat from Delaware) and Bill (a.k.a. Bill Richardson, New Mexico's Democratic governor) wouldn't mind if you supported them while you check them out on MySpace.

Social-networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace are among the latest media organizing tools of the political set. Almost all the candidates who've announced they're running for president -- and even a few who haven't officially, like Richardson -- have posted profiles of themselves on the sites. With millions of young people passing through every day, a Facebook or MySpace page is a cheapo way to try for new donors, volunteers and potential votes.

Except that MySpace and Facebook -- which are essentially vast electronic meet markets -- require, well, a slightly different kind of come-on than a traditional campaign pitch.

So, instead of ponderous policy positions, the candidates' pages often feature trivial personal details (Zodiac signs and favorite books). Even worse, they can seem just a little creepy, as if the people running for president are trolling not just for supporters but for online hook-ups.

Until recently, for example, Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican candidate, told visitors to his MySpace page that his body type is "6'0"/Athletic" before dropping the subject altogether last week. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) noted that his was "Slim/Slender," until thinking better of it, too, and dropping the reference from his page in the past week.

Obama also reports that his sexual orientation is "straight," that his ethnicity is "Black/African descent" and that his religion is "Protestant." This is a bit of a self-adjustment, too. Until last week, Obama had described his ethnicity simply as "Other" and his religion as "Christian-other."

John Edwards drops the news that he's a Gemini and that his favorite movie is "The Shawshank Redemption." As for music, he'll take Bruce Springsteen ("The River") and Mary Chapin Carpenter ("This Shirt"). His Facebook profile offers the same haiku-like mini-biography that appears on his MySpace page: "Born in Seneca, South Carolina. My dad was a mill worker. I went to public schools. Met my life partner, Elizabeth (isn't she great). Proud father of four children. As a lawyer, I stood up against the powerful. As a Senator, I stood up for you. Currently fighting poverty. Go Tar Heels!"

Although it's hard to imagine political figures of an earlier age doing something like this -- would Franklin Delano Roosevelt confess his love of the Andrews Sisters on his Facebook profile? -- it's not hard to understand why politicians of today would.

"This is the equivalent of a politician going into an ethnic neighborhood and eating the local food," says Michael Cornfield, a professor at George Washington University who specializes in electronic politics. "If you're going to be [on a social networking site], it would be a breach of decorum not to fill out the [profile] form and drop some personal details."

Besides, says Cornfield, "Americans have always loved trivia" about their would-be leaders.


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