Interview with Kevin Geiken: Field Director of Iowa for Obama’s 2012 Presidential Campaign


Kevin Geiken

Kevin Geiken works on social media


Interview with Kevin Geiken: Obama For America Iowa Field Director about how the Obama campaign is using social media to mobilize voters for the 2012 election and what social media campaign lessons OFA has learned during Obama’s first presidency.


Q. How has the usage of social media in campaigns changed from 2008 to now?

A. The usage of social media has changed because now a lot more people are online on Facebook and Twitter. From 2008 to now, there has been a generational shift with a lot more baby boomers and older voters engaging in social media. In 2008, it was more used as a tool to mobilize college-aged volunteers and voters. Now it is used as a tool to mobilize a higher number of voters of multiple generations.


Q. What is the biggest social media challenge?

A. The biggest challenge is that anyone can engage in social media and there are things such as fake Barack Obama accounts that still have thousands of followers. These accounts send out false information that can be misleading and confusing to voters. The other challenge is that the newscycle has now shortened from a 24 hour news cycle to an hourly news cycle to a minute by minute news cycle. It requires someone to constantly monitor the news and be ready to respond to any breaking news or claims by Republicans opponents. Additionally the number of organizations and individuals who want to discredit the president has expanded as social media has become a cheap and easily available tool to reach voters.


Q. How has social media helped the Obama campaign?

Social media has helped the Obama campaign in many different ways. First it has helped us to fundraise. For example, we had an online campaign where everyone who donated $5 or more over a certain period of time was entered into a drawing to be one of people who had dinner with Obama in September. This entices the all important, small donation people to donate a little bit and also increases excitement about contributing to Obama’s campaign. Additionally we were able to raise over $250,000 in a short period of time doing this.


Second it helps us to organize volunteers as we can create Facebook events and build excitement about volunteering that way. We can also Tweet about what we’re doing each weekend from door knocking to drum up support for Obama’s healthcare policy to having a presence at events such as college football tailgating. Obama is the fifth most followed person on Twitter. Facebook events allow people to see the list of attendees and volunteers are more likely to come if they see that someone they know is also coming along. The power of the retweet is also great as it allows us to further our outreach.


Social media also allows us to quickly and cost effectively reach voters. For example, Obama can put up a weekly YouTube address to the nation that is then emailed to supporters, posted on Facebook and tweeted on Twitter. Social media opens up several channels for people to consume the same content which is great for achieving the greatest breadth of outreach. Additionally it is cheaper than putting an ad on television. Video is one of our greatest assets on the campaign because Obama is such as polished and engaging public speaker.


Social media also allows citizens to engage in direct activism such as when we send out a message calling for supporters to contact their Congressional representatives to voice support for one of Obama’s policy initiatives. Or when we provide information on where people can go to vote on Election Day. It also allows us to directly target certain demographics such as providing information for veterans, or those struggling with student loans, or Obama supporters inOhio. This direct targeting of important voting blocks is one of the most powerful social media tools that Obama has.


Additionally social media opens up two-way communications with prospective supporters and supporters who want to voice their support or opposition to Obama’s policies or bring concerns to the campaign’s attention. People can tweet to @BarackObama and someone from the campaign staff will see their tweets and respond accordingly or pass their concerns higher up the campaign chain. We try to respond to everyone who contacts us. One of the benefits of social media technology is that it makes the campaign more accessible to Americans who may want to communicate with President Obama but aren’t sure how to reach him.



What can we do to solve the unemployment crisis?

According to the U.S. Department of Commerce, in the recently released July-September 2011 quarterly report, the economy grew at an annual rate of 2.5% in the past quarter. However, in a Business Week article titled “Summer Growth Calms Recession Fears: Will it Last?”,  it was argued that none of this growth had to do with a decrease in unemployment. Rather the growth was fueled by Americans who spent more while earning less and by businesses that invested in machines and computers, not workers.

According to the article, even with an increase in seasonal employment as the holidays approach, the unemployment rate looks to hold steady in the coming months. The article states that “the economy would have to grow at nearly double the third-quarter pace to make a dent in the unemployment rate”.

That is bad news for the more than 14 million unemployed Americans. It is also bad news for President Barack Obama and incumbent members of Congress as it means they’ll be facing angry voters with unemployment near 9 percent. In an article for Reuters by Andy Sullivan titled “Jobless Voters Could Desert Obama at Election,” Sullivan states that the unemployed could be a swing constituency next year with few incumbents returning to office. With the 2012 presidential election a year away, Congressional Republicans have vowed to do nothing to help the president create jobs as they have no desire to see his approval rating go up and his presidency to extend into a second term. In the fierce battle of wills that is going on in Congress, there seems to be no room for job creation progress, bipartisanship and compromise.

President Obama’s unveiled his American Jobs Act (AJA) in September. The overall cost of the jobs plan is $447 billion, of which only $5 billion is designated specifically to focus on youth job growth as part of the Pathways Back to Work package.

Obama has touted his jobs plan in campaign-style rallies across the country, even though Republicans have already blocked it. Republicans oppose several of the bill’s direct-spending measures and have put out their own job-creation bills.

The Republican jobs plan titled the Jobs Through Growth Act (JTGA) centers around expanding domestic oil and gas drilling and relaxing pollution controls and other business regulations. It also focuses on repealing what they have dubbed Obamacare. Republicans believe that repealing Obamacare as well as the Dodd-Frank act would create over 5 million jobs by 2015. When Obama offers harsh criticism of the Republicans’ plan, Congressional Republicans attack back pointing out that the Democratic-led Senate has so far refused to take action on 15 of their job-creation bills that have passed the House. The Senate has no plans to take up any of those bills, a Democratic aide said.

Analysis firm Macroeconomic Advisers’ blog is one of the best in the nation at analyzing the true effects that legislatives policies will have on economic growth and more specifically job creation.  In a policy report titled “Man Up A(Jobs)A vs. J(obs)TGA”, Macroeconomic Advisers offers a strong comparison of the two bills. “The Republican plan of streamlining regulations would increase productivity over time but do little to boost the economy in the short term. The Obama plan, by contrast, would boost employment by 1.3 million jobs next year (just in time for the November 2012 presidential election) and have a dwindling effect after that”. The company summarizes in the post that, “we view the two plans as more complementary in nature than competitive. If only Democrats and Republicans could see it that way, too!”

The reality is that the bills from Congressional Republicans and the President are going nowhere at present. To get these bills moving, voters are encouraged to contact those who represent you in Congress and issue a call to action that politicians come together and focus on creating jobs for Americans. American voters who are tired of partisan fighting and ineffective political leadership should take the time to make these important calls. Phone numbers and email addresses for members of Congress can be found at Contacting the Congress.  Although it is unlikely that the American Jobs Act will pass in its current form, the Democratic National Committee is asking voters to call Republicans in Congress and encourage them to support the bill. They have provided a sample phone call script to assist you. It is more important now than ever that national politicians hear how unemployment is affecting every day Americans and making your voice heard could be critical to jump starting our economy.

Youth Unemployment Policy Overview: How Bad Is It?


While there is a lot of policy information out there about youth job creation both in the United States and around the world, in recent months there has not been a lot of good news or forward progress on getting the global economy revitalized or jump starting youth job creation. In the United States unemployment increased 8% from 2005 to 2010. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, unemployment among all youth ages 16-24 is currently at 18.1%. It is significantly worse for young African Americans with 45.8% unemployment and young Latinos with 34.8% unemployment.


As seen by the graph below created by the OEDC (Organization for Economic Development and Cooperation), the United States is not alone in its youth unemployment crisis.

Unemployment Graphic


According to an article in The Economist titled “The Jobless Young Left Behind”, “not only is the number of underemployed 15- to 24-year-olds in the OEDC higher than at any time since the organisation began collecting data in 1976. The number of young people in the rich world who have given up looking for work is at a record high too.” Click here for a link to the full article.


In light of high unemployment throughout the nation, little attention overall has been paid specifically to youth unemployment. President Obama’s recently proposed jobs plan addresses this issue by including funding for a summer jobs program that will employ “hundreds of thousands of disadvantaged young people.” The full text of Obama’s speech is available here.


The summer jobs program is one of three initiatives in the act’s $5 billion Pathways Back to Work package. Subsidized employment opportunities for low-income youth and adults, and work-based job training programs, will also be funded out of the $5 billion. The overall cost of the jobs plan is $447 billion and Congressional Republicans have vowed to defeat the measure.


As it stands right now, there is a slight hope that some aspects of the bill could be passed in a piecemeal approach but even that is unlikely. The Senate voted down the bill in the second week in October. The bill died on a 50-49 tally, with a majority of the 100-member Senate supporting it but well short of the 60 votes needed to keep the bill alive. The House has not yet voted on the measure, but speaker of the house John Boehner has vowed to defeat the measure. President Obama’s response was that“”a lot of folks in Washington and the media will look at last night’s vote and say, `Well, that’s it. Let’s move on to the next fight.’ But I’ve got news for them: Not this time. Not with so many Americans out of work. Not with so many folks in your communities hurting. We will not take no for an answer.”

Unemployment Image

Help is wanted for the Unemployment Crisis in America


While successful economic policy making regarding youth job growth seems to be lacking,  President Obama has recently spoken out about the importance of high school students pursuing advanced degrees and speaks to the responsibility of youth themselves to help jump start the economy. However with the rising costs of college tuition, for some, attending college has become harder than ever.


The effects of this unemployment can be scarring for decades to come with labor market expert Paul Gregg saying that previous recessions have shown that long term youth unemployment has longer term “scarring” effects on this section of the workforce. “Particularly for young people, when you lose jobs, you tend to come back into lower paid work. That’s the short term stuff,” Gregg said. “But there are these long term scars, which are that people who don’t attach themselves to stable employment, experience and skills when they are younger have very bad labor market experiences well into their 30s and 40s. This does not bode well for the future of America’s economic recovery or the youth of America as they transition into middle adulthood. These long term scars and the problem of youth unemployment is well depicted in the following video by the International Labour Organization:



Overall this is policy problem with no quick fixes and at present, at least in America, no adequate solutions being enacted.



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Welcome to my blog!

Hello! I am a public policy student who cares passionately about issues of youth unemployment and economic growth. I hope to be a quality source of information about policies and news regarding the challenges of Generation Y unemployment and its effects on the U.S. economy and Millennials themselves.