Incumbent presidents almost always hold advantages over their reelection opponents: no ugly primary battle, better name recognition, more fundraising opportunities and more media attention.
Digital media adds another benefit. Incumbents have years to establish a digital presence, which means they get a big jump on future rivals in terms of owning their reputation on the Web.
But more important for this election is that the Web presence that now-President Obama established then is still in place. It has built on its massive Twitter, Facebook and YouTube audience steadily since.
The Boston Globe reported in 2009 that the Obama campaign had 3.4 million Facebook followers. The president has about eight times that many today. @BarackObama joined Twitter in 2007 and has 14 million followers. Mitt Romney, the presumptive Republican nominee, joined in 2009 (@Mitt Romney) and now has 451,000 followers.
Those numbers don’t mean much on their own unless the individual campaigns mobilize their audiences. The Obama campaign proved its ability to turn its digital following into fundraising and organizing success in 2008.
Now Romney must build up his online audience and engage those followers at a quick pace to catch up with Obama in translating his digital following into success in fundraising, organizing — and, of course,, in getting the votes.