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Who's Winning the Presidential Race on Facebook?

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Part of the point of Off The Bus is to offer an alternative to the lazy horse-race mentality of the media establishment covering the '08 presidential election.

It is my goal here to OUT-LAZY them. I am offering up a high-tech, low-effort, totally unscientific snapshot of how the 40 million members of Facebook would vote in an imaginary primary involving all of the current candidates.

Let's find out what the kids in my under-40 demographic are thinking about this election, since the polls are -- as we all know -- lame, not least of all because they call people on their land-line telephones, and who between the ages of 18 and thirtysomething has one of those anymore?

Why Facebook? Well, I just joined it the other day because someone told me to, and a social networking expert told me it's the coolest of its breed, the new "in" site. The over-25 set is its fastest-growing membership contingent. As a good citizen, I believe -- and do -- what I'm told. And, again, I am lazy, and Facebook is right there in front of my . . . face.

I started by polling my 50 or so Facebook friends on who they'd vote for (excepting the journalists, who I figure don't want to say). I'll tell you at the bottom of this article how that went.

Also, I know who I'd vote for, but I won't reveal it today (like you care anyway). Let's just say I'm a one-issue voter and leave it at that. It's not the issue you think, though.

Next I tallied up the numbers from the Politics groups at Facebook.

IMPORTANT DISCLAIMERS: These groups often contain duplicate members. Also, when you do a plain search in "Groups" for each candidate with his or her name in quotes, it gives you a total number, but if you page through, that number includes many groups that are not specifically dedicated to that candidate. So it may say so-and-so has 100 groups, but in fact if you count the dedicated ones, it's only 60, 70 or 80. I did my best to be accurate.

Joe Biden has about 45 groups, including "Joe Biden for President (TWO million strong for Joe!)," which has 19 members. So I guess it's only got 1,999,981 new members to go! There are a few anti-Biden groups, such as the one-member "Joe Biden is a plagiarist. I will never vote for him" and the 13-member "I hate Joseph Biden and his teeth." There's also the very wryly named "Clean, Articulate, Nice-Looking Americans for Biden." Like the others, Biden has a sizable number of small "[State/Occupation] for Biden" groups.

Hillary Clinton's legendary divisiveness is on display, with anti-HRC groups appearing to far outnumber the pro-HRC ones. One of the many "If Hillary Clinton gets elected president I'll shoot myself!" groups has 689 members. Look for a rash of suicides in '08? "If Hillary wins, I'm moving to Canada" is another big theme. Look out, Canada! A bunch of Clinton-hating Americans is coming your way! One anti-Hillary group has 446,108 members. Then there's an "Against Anti-Hillarys" group. It says there are more than 500 Hillary groups, I didn't take the time to count them.

Chris Dodd has 16 groups dedicated exclusively to him with a combined membership of 919. Notably, none of the groups is anti-Dodd. Because why bother at this point.

Mike Gravel has 2,985 members in his main group, "Mike Gravel 2008." Make of that what you will. Another is called "Republicans for Gravel." He has about 70 small groups.

Dennis Kucinich has about 60 groups, and his main one has 3,413 members. My favorite is "Mrs. Kucinich, FLILF." FL stands for First Lady . . . the rest you can figure out (think "MILF").

"America for Bill Richardson" has 2,206 members. He has about 100 other groups.

Many of the groups for the various candidates propose running mates in their names, so you've got Gravel/Paul '08 (!!) and Gore/Richardson '08, for instance. A little premature/misguided? I guess it's like Fantasy Football.

Who am I forgetting?

Oh, yeah. John Edwards has 3,549 members in what appears to be his largest group, and, like with Hillary, it says he has 500+ groups. One is called "John Edwards' hair care products are destroying the ozone layer."

A lot of the group names, in case it's not clear by now, are highly tendentious, but entertaining, and represent topics of debate in and of themselves.

Who else am I forgetting?

Duh! "Barack Obama (One Million Strong for Barack)" comes closest of all the groups that aim to be a "million" strong to actually being so: 368,916 members. He also has 500+ groups dedicated to him.

Who else am I forgetting? Oh, of course! The Republicans! Tell you what: When they get some viable candidates, I'll do one of these on them, okay?

So, interestingly, the size of the presence of each of these candidates on Facebook, a site that as far as I know is not controlled by the mainstream media, tracks generally with the messages we get from the news/punditocracy about who has what chance of winning. The "top three" of the conventional wisdom all do, in fact, have 500+ groups.

Now back to my poll of my own friends: People are always fine with ignoring me, so I only got about 15 responses. They were: Barack Obama 6, John Edwards 2, Ron Paul 1, Ron Paul or Dennis Kucinich 1, George W. "Four More Years!" Bush 1, Chris Dodd 1, Hillary Clinton or Chris Dodd 1, and dark horse write-in candidate Rep. Todd Tiahrt (R - Kansas) 1.

So who wins? I think if some sort of "Facebook primary" were held tomorrow, for sheer numbers of "voters" it would be Barack Obama. He has the hundreds of thousands of supporters without the hundreds of thousands of detractors that Hillary has. Also, he dominated in the poll of my Facebook friends.

But I can't say what this snapshot means so early in the campaign. What do you think?