Rand Paul is celebrating a small victory on the path to the Presidential election: he has more Facebook likes on his official page than any of the other current candidates. Do more Facebook likes translate into more votes, though?
Rand Paul posted a celebratory message Saturday evening, announcing that he was the first Presidential candidate to reach two million Facebook followers.
"We said we were going to take it to the Democrats online and run the most innovative, tech-forward campaign for President. Thanks to your help today I became the first candidate running in 2016 on either side of the aisle to have 2 million people on Facebook!"As far as that goes, it appears to be accurate. As of this posting, the currently-declared candidates have likes as follows, in order from most to fewest:
Rand Paul (R) -- 2 millionBen Carson (R) -- 1.4 millionTed Cruz (R) -- 1.2 millionRick Perry (R) -- 1.1 millionMarco Rubio (R) -- 875 thousandHillary Clinton (D) -- 873 thousandBernie Sanders (D) 534 thousandRick Santorum (R) -- 216 thousandLindsey Graham (R) -- 112 thousandMartin O'Malley (D) -- 70 thousandCarly Fiorina (R) -- 60 thousandGeorge Pataki (R) -- 15 thousandRobby Wells (D) -- 178Jeff Boss (D) -- 111Mark Everson (R) -- 1,500Lincoln Chaffee (D) -- 643Jack Fellure (R) -- 77Willie Wilson (D) -- 0
In the interest of fairness, here are Facebook likes on some who have discussed running but not officially declared candidacy at this point.
One concern with taking Rand Paul's declared social media victory at face value, though, is that several of these politicians have multiple official pages -- for instance, while Bernie Sanders' page for his 216 presidential campaign has only a little more than half a million followers, he has another page called U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders, which has 1.1 million followers. (For best accuracy, where a candidate had multiple pages, this list focuses on the one that is most clearly associated with a presidential campaign, even if another page for that individual had more followers.)
Lincoln Chaffee, Willie Wilson, and Jack Fellure both have tiny numbers of likes but they also don't have official campaign pages -- just auto-generated Facebook descriptions, or in Wilson's case, apparently no page at all. None of these is a major candidate who is apt to be in competition with Rand Paul, of course.
Also, Facebook likes don't necessarily mean support for presidency -- liking a page is necessary to follow the posts, so people follow politicians for a number of reasons. Some Facebook users follow their local politicians to keep abreast of the latest information, and some follow the ones they disagree with most strongly -- especially if those politicians are prone to saying outrageous or supremely mockable things.
Finally, it's important to recognize that different voter demographics get their information from different sources: younger voters are more likely to follow their candidates on social media, while many older voters may focus more on television ads or presidential debates. Rand Paul's tech-savvy libertarian followers may be more social-media-focused than those who support some of the other candidates.
Rand Paul almost certainly gained a number of followers across the political spectrum after his actions on the Patriot Act. Some of these followers may just be curious about Paul's very firm stance, and some may support that particular action but may or may not actually support Paul for President.
In an age where a large percent of the voters are online and social media is flooded with people's political opinions and memes, there is no question that being the first candidate to reach 2 million Facebook followers means that Rand Paul is being heard. However, as a firm sign that he's headed for the White House, the meaning of all those likes is less clear. Let's put it this way: Sarah Palin has nearly 4.5 million likes.
[Photo by:Scott Olson/Getty Images]