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Obama's Text: Message Received, With a Few Garbles

By Jose Antonio Vargas
It was the text message read 'round the country.

But many had to wait minutes, and some for hours, to receive the announcement of Sen. Joseph Biden as Sen. Barack Obama's running mate. This was most likely a scaling issue, mobile experts said, with carriers' messaging systems overwhelmed by the number of people receiving the text.

"It was one message that had to reach any number of devices," said Stephanie Vinge-Walsh of Sprint Nextel. She added that traffic on Sprint's short code for the Obama campaign -- 62262, which spells O-B-A-M-A on cell phone keypads -- rose more than 250 percent within an hour of the announcement.

The Obama campaign, which declined to say how many texts it sent around 3 a.m. today, said everything went according to plan.

Regardless, the number of people who received the text through various mobile carriers was certainly unprecedented in the political realm.

In a campaign season of many innovations, this marked the full arrival of texting to politics. About 48 billion texts were sent each month in the country as of December 2007, according to CTIA, the international association for the wireless telecommunications industry. Just this year, Sprint says, more than 70 million texts were sent over its network.

For more than a year, Obama's online operations has aggressively marketed their text program -- which comes with its own ringtones and wallpapers, standard fare in the mobile commercial industry -- to collect names, e-mail addresses and Zip codes. Scott Goodstein, who overlooks the program, spent three weeks in South Carolina before the Palmetto State's primary to test the new medium's use in campaigning. Nearly two weeks ago, Obama sent a message saying he would notify supporters of his vice presidential choice via text, promising supporters that they'd be "the first to know."

That promise was undercut when news organizations confirmed around 1 a.m. today that Obama had settled on Biden. The announcement was sent about two hours later -- apparently with no glitches, said Kevin Bertman of Distributive Networks, the District-based mobile company hired by the campaign to send its texts.

Yet some awaiting word were complaining on various blogs and social networking sites such as Twitter and Facebook. "What happened to the text message?" wrote Hunter Woods on the wall of Obama's official Facebook page.

As of 3 p.m. Saturday, nearly 12 hours after it was originally sent, Micah Sifry still hadn't gotten the text.

"I didn't really mind not getting it, but I do know people who got it at 3 a.m. An older friend of mine e-mailed me at 4 a.m., saying he couldn't sleep and asking, 'Why wasn't this thing sent at 5 p.m.?' " said Sifry, co-founder of TechPresident, a group blog covering the intersection of politics and technology. "Whatever you think of when it was sent, you have to admit this was a really smart way for the campaign to get thousands, if not millions, of numbers. Texting is a huge new tool."

By Post Editor  |  August 23, 2008; 6:05 PM ET
Categories:  Barack Obama , New Media  
Save & Share:  Send E-mail   Facebook   Twitter   Digg   Yahoo Buzz   Del.icio.us   StumbleUpon   Technorati   Google Buzz   Previous: Edwards' Money Man Also Has Ties to Biden
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Comments

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Posted by: state brand water heater | August 30, 2008 8:58 PM | Report abuse

It sounds to me based on another WP blog post like the text message only went out to Sprint customers.

I have an iPhone on AT&T, so I didn't get it either.

What's the deal? Does Obama support telecom monopolies on his news?

In any event, 3am Eastern is midnight my time, and I turn my cell phone off overnight so people trying to reach the last guy with the number don't wake me up.

And it seems to break the promise Obama made in having us sign up: we were supposed to get the news first. It should have gone out during waking hours, when everyone would have had a chance to get it.

Hell, we expect the president to be up at 3am in a crisis - so we can get some sleep.

Actually, I did hear the news around midnight - the local NBC affiliate saw it on the Obama website and broadcast it before the text message even went out, I think - certainly before the email did an hour or two later.

Posted by: utopus | August 25, 2008 12:19 PM | Report abuse

Wonder if Gore will suddenly steal the nomination as he will be speaking on Thursday night, the same time as Obama?

According to outside sources, Gore may be installed as Prez because Obama's job was to rid of Hillary. Once done, he is to be disposed of via his own generated scandals (Sinclair sex, murder, Rezko, Iraqi billionaire, etc.) Gore may have about 100 superdelegates in his back pocket just for this cause so no candidate will have enough to win and he can take advantage of the contempt, chaos and confusion of dem convention, etc.

The roll call is a dem tradition since the 1880's. It provides all candidates a chance to be officially nominated by the all delegates. President FDR's name was placed in the ballot in 1932 and won on the 4th ballot. The rest is history. The roll call should go on. It is the procedure and part of process of Democratic system.

Posted by: Anonymous | August 25, 2008 10:54 AM | Report abuse

Actually no news origination said they got it from a leak. It was just a process of elimination and they went with the story. There was no one left and that is what news people do. You think they can't figure out when only one 1 left, he is probably the guy? Obama just made it official.

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The fools who signed up for the text message

were the last to know. The rest of us knew by

12:30 AM. If Barry can't handle this simple

task, what would he do if ever elected the

POTUS. Barry would screww up a one car

funeral.

Posted by: Jack Straw | August 24, 2008 11:07 AM

Posted by: Anonymous | August 24, 2008 12:50 PM | Report abuse

The fools who signed up for the text message

were the last to know. The rest of us knew by

12:30 AM. If Barry can't handle this simple

task, what would he do if ever elected the

POTUS. Barry would screww up a one car

funeral.

Posted by: Jack Straw | August 24, 2008 11:07 AM | Report abuse

I signed up for the text message, but I never received it. I found out because I am a nigt owl and was watching CNN, who broke the news.

Posted by: Neesy | August 24, 2008 9:44 AM | Report abuse

OBAMA GOT FOLKS OUT THEIR THATS WHY I DONT BELEIVE IN POLLS I NEVER WAS POLL, WHEN NOV.4 2008 COMES THE WORLD NOT GONNA KNOW WHAT HIT THE POLLS ITS GONNA BE A LANDSLIDE AMERICA NEVER SEEN IN VOTEING HISTORY WHEN BILL CLINTON RAN FOR PRESIDENT HE PICK UP 65MILLION VOTES.

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Posted by: magic screenwriter crack | August 24, 2008 3:34 AM | Report abuse

Here go the republican cronies hard at work posting multiple times pretending to be different people. Democrats unite!

Posted by: 2pound | August 24, 2008 12:40 AM | Report abuse

Many of us did not receive the text message, am wondering what went wrong.

Posted by: kalliope | August 23, 2008 9:38 PM | Report abuse

Mccain and his people are idiots. They sat back and watched what Obama did during the primary, with the use of the internet, raising money and everything else. Mccain saw how wildly over the top successful it was and sat there and did nothing, and still is doing nothing. He should have gone to his people and said, "Get us the best internet people in the business money is no object, I want them to analyze what Obama is doing from top to bottom and see how we can do it, maybe even better". Does he, NO. He sits back running a campaign bases in the last century, literally. I have been in business all my life and have made tons of money. I didn't do it complaining about my competition. I did it by learning from them and doing it better, beating them at their own game. Mccain and his staff are totally incompetent. I don't want to here a thing about the text messaging and mining phone numbers. Want something to complain about? Ask why Mccain isn't doing it also. Ask what the hell you gave them all that money for, just to stand around at town hall meetings talking to 200 disinterested people. Complaining about Obama does not make your candidate more competent, it points out how incompetent he really is by comparison.
----------
There is a sucker born every minute and Obama got them all to fall for the oldest marketing trick in the book. Now they will be receiving endless text asking for money, or whatever. The people who did not see this for the scam it was deserve Obama as their leader. Hopefully they can all find a little island somewhere in the pacific and start their own little country. Retardland would be a great name but I hear it's not PC so how about Obamatardsland.

Posted by: coolrepublica | August 23, 2008 7:19 PM


Posted by: Anonymous | August 23, 2008 9:24 PM | Report abuse

Blackfoot Nation(Bloods,Peigan,Siksika)

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Posted by: Blackfoot Nation | August 23, 2008 9:21 PM | Report abuse

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Posted by: tweetip | August 23, 2008 8:15 PM | Report abuse

Given that Obama has 2 million supporters and McCain has barely 600,000, and given that Obama outraised McCain $51m-27m last month, it is clear that Obama has much more strong support in the country.

The suckers are the lower and middle class Americans who continue to vote Republican. I can understand the greedy bastards - who don't care about the country's underlying infrastructure, health care or educational systems - voting Republican. But what's in it for you people? Delusions of grandeur?

Posted by: Deep Blue | August 23, 2008 7:48 PM | Report abuse

There is a sucker born every minute and Obama got them all to fall for the oldest marketing trick in the book. Now they will be receiving endless text asking for money, or whatever. The people who did not see this for the scam it was deserve Obama as their leader. Hopefully they can all find a little island somewhere in the pacific and start their own little country. Retardland would be a great name but I hear it's not PC so how about Obamatardsland.

Posted by: coolrepublica | August 23, 2008 7:19 PM | Report abuse

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