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Robots for McCain

by Cally Carswell 

Tags: Technology, Election 2008, John McCain, Barack Obama, robocalls, telemarketing, political advertising, Wired, Talking Points Memo, Politico,

robot phoneBarack Obama may have a leg up on John McCain when it comes to TV advertising and video games embeds, but McCain has the advantage when it comes to robocalling, reports Wired. Shaun Dakin, who Wired describes as an “anti-robocall activist,” collected data showing that the McCain campaign ran 12 automated political telemarketing efforts in the past month and a half, compared to Obama’s four.

Recipients of the calls are greeted with automated messages like this one, sent to Talking Points Memo by a voter in North Carolina:

I'm calling on behalf of John McCain and the RNC because you need to know that Barack Obama and his Democrat allies in the Illinois Senate opposed a bill requiring doctors to care for babies born alive after surviving attempted abortions—a position at odds even with John Kerry and Hillary Clinton. Barack Obama and his liberal Democrats are too extreme for America. Please vote—vote for the candidates who share our values. This call was paid for by McCain-Palin 2008 and the Republican National Committee at 202 863 8500.

Will McCain’s army of tele-bots march him into the White House? Probably not. Wired cites a Pew Research Center survey that found that almost half of the voters in Iowa and New Hampshire who received robocalls hung up on the calls. According to Ben Smith of Politico, “Robocalls are a relatively inexpensive way to deliver a negative message, and used to be seen as an under-the-radar way to do it, though that's no longer really true.” Indeed, scripts and audio of McCain’s robocalls are popping up all over the Internet, though there's scant mention of what the Obama campaign's calls contain. And unfortunately for McCain, coverage of robocalling isn't translating into positive press.

Image by Joe Wu, licensed under Creative Commons.