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Pawlenty Using Social Media to Boost Support for 2010 GOP Candidates

Minnesota Gov. Tim Pawlenty is crowdsourcing his endorsements.

The ostensible 2012 GOP presidential candidate launched a new contest Friday through his political action committee, encouraging people to vote for their favorite 2010 candidates from a field of 22 that he’s already endorsed.

Whoever gets the most votes by April 29 will get to co-host a Facebook town hall with Pawlenty, an e-mail on behalf of the candidate sent to the Freedom First PAC’s e-mail list and a matching donation for every dollar donated to the candidate by individuals through the PAC up to the $5,000 limit.

“The synergy between the PAC and the campaigns is really helpful for everyone involved,” said Freedom First spokesman Alex Conant. “We’re always looking for innovative ways to engage not only our own supporters but other candidates’ supporters to get them involved in the PAC and give them ways of expressing support for the candidates.”

Visitors can vote by plugging in their names and e-mail addresses and choosing a candidate from a drop down menu on the PAC’s website.

Colin Delaney, a political consultant and founder of, a site that focuses on online political advocacy, said the contest is a good way for Pawlenty to engage supporters, but more importantly it’s a useful way to get names.

“It’s a great list-building activity and there is nothing more precious to a politician than his supporter list,” he said. “Two years out [from the presidential election] the most important thing you can be doing is list building.”

Conant said the contest is a good way to boost Pawlenty’s name recognition outside of his home state, too.

“Not a lot of folks outside of Minnesota have heard of Tim Pawlenty,” he said. “It’s a great way to grow the organization while also helping great candidates.”

Pawlenty took to Facebook and Twitter to promote the contest, writing on his profile on both social networking sites: “Vote for your favorite candidate endorsed by Freedom First PAC in my online contest where supporters can choose which candidate will win real prizes.”

Conant said Friday has been the biggest traffic day of the year on the website so far and more than 1,000 people have voted.

“The governor has really puts a high premium on using technology to reach the public and to engage the public and we’ve really tried to invest a lot in terms of talent and energy and time in terms of new media,” he said.

Some of the candidates were promoting the contest themselves on Friday.

Sean Duffy, who is challenging House Appropriations Chairman David Obey in Wisconsin; ex-Rep. Steve Chabot (R-Ohio), who is trying to reclaim his old seat against Rep. Steve Driehaus (D); and Adam Kinzinger, who is challenging Rep. Debbie Halvorson (D-Ill.), took to Facebook to ask their followers to vote.

“We did immediately post it on Facebook and we tweeted about it and we sent out an e-mail. We are excited about it and appreciate every vote we can get,” said Kinzinger campaign spokesman Brad Hahn. “We need to do anything we can to get people engaged and excited about the November election and this helps in that process.”

Conant said those three candidates were doing well in the contest out of the gate Friday afternoon, as was Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.).

Kinzinger and Chabot are among six candidates Pawlenty endorsed on Friday. The other four are Joe Heck (Nev.), Mick Mulvaney (S.C.), Rep. Mark Kirk (Ill.) and Sen. Tom Coburn (Okla.).

They join other already endorsed candidates, including incumbents running for re-election, such as Reps. John Kline (Minn.) and Erik Paulsen (Minn.), Sens. Richard Burr (N.C.), Chuck Grassley (Iowa) and John McCain (Ariz.).

The list includes several challengers, such as House candidates Tim Burns in Pennsylvania, Randy Demmer in Minnesota, Charles Djou in Hawaii, Bob Dold in Illinois and Pat Meehan in Pennsylvania; and Senate candidates such as North Dakota Gov. John Hoeven, Rob Portman of Ohio and Pat Toomey of Pennsylvania.

In addition to Kirk, the list includes another Member running for the Senate: Rep. Roy Blunt (Mo.).

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