An unexpected social media byproduct has risen from the "War on Women" debate between Democrats and Republicans: Mitt Romney's team was able to build an 80,000-strong women-centered Facebook community nearly overnight.
The Romney campaign created "Moms for Mitt," a Facebook community that's being used to display Romney's life as father and husband and to share infographics dealing with women's issues.
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This latest initiative is an outgrowth of months of political battles by the two major parties over women's issues and treatment.
In March, the Obama administration announced that it would require religiously affiliated schools and hospitals to cover birth control under the new health care mandate (a stance which has since been modified). The rule interpretation ignited a controversy and in the ensuing coverage, Democrats accused the Republicans of waging a "war on women." This characterization was not helped by notable GOP blunders such as Rep. Darrell Issa's (R-Calif.) all-male panel during a hearing on birth control.
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A few weeks ago, in the continued media back-and-forth, Hilary Rosen, a Democratic strategist, accused stay-at-home-mom Ann Romney of "never having worked a day in her life." That comment set off a firestorm on Twitter, with people coming to the defense of Ann Romney or Rosen -- but mostly the former.
The GOP acted swiftly to capitalize on the change in momentum over women's issues, hammering Rosen for dismissing the work and value of stay-at-home mothers. Although Rosen had no direct connection to the Obama campaign, top Democrats took pains to distance themselves from her comments.
"Moms for Mitt" has been drawing in users at blistering speed. By the end of the day on April 15, when the page was created, nearly 35,000 users were already engaged. Four days later, that number doubled to 70,000. On the afternoon of April 24, more than 80,000 people have "liked" the page and 56,872 are "talking about this."
So the campaign has 80,000 people involved on this platform. So what? What if those are just 80,000 random conservative voters, getting involved with the tit-for-tat of the political horserace?
Zac Moffatt, Romney's digital director, told Mashable that's not the case. An overwhelming majority -- 98% -- of the Facebook users that "like" the "Moms for Mitt" page are women, and 51% of those women are over the age of 55 -- exactly the target demographic for the page.
Moffatt sees immense value in the suddenly-risen community, and rightfully so: being aware of so many women willing to engage with the campaign is valuable.
"We couldn’t generate this on our own if we wanted to," he said. "I wouldn’t have known there are 80,000 moms that felt this strongly. It’s a community that we’re going to be able to go back to."
Go back to it they shall. Knowing there's a community of tens of thousands of women who support Romney will give the Romney campaign the opportunity to capitalize on that community with special events. Moffatt and his team are already planning women-focused events around the country based on "Moms for Mitt," such as voter registration drives.
"It’s ‘digital field [organizing],'" says Moffatt. "We've got an extremely vibrant community of people having discussions among themselves -- now they’re going to be a part of the campaign."
This story originally published on Mashable here.