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Politicians maul MySpace with recycled campaign material

Did you hear the news? I’m a friend of Lt. Gov. Michael Steele — well, a MySpace friend that is.

Like millions of other Internet-addicted teenagers, I spend a large chunk of my time after school not on the football field or at the library, but cruising the pages of MySpace.

Although slapped with controversy from time to time due to Internet predators, the networking Web site has grown increasingly popular in recent years. It boasts more than 120 million users, most of whom are young adults.

Seeking to reach younger voters, over-40 politicians have joined the network — often with comical results.

Gubernatorial candidates Republican Robert Ehrlich and Democrat Martin O’Malley both have their own “space,” as does U.S. Senate contender Michael Steele and attorney general candidate Scott Rolle, both members of the GOP.

Scott Rolle calls his site “ScottSpace.” Ironically, Rolle, who is a strong supporter of strengthening punishments for child predators, links to news stories on his page that discuss how MySpace isn’t safe for children.

Rolle discusses how he likes to go white-water rafting and rescue animals in his General Interests section — showing himself as an all-American Renaissance man. He touts his Toyota Prius Hybrid in one picture, making the fact that he’s a Republican ever more baffling.

Unfortunately, the rest of the candidates’ spaces go downhill after Rolle.

Baltimore Mayor Martin O’Malley pastes far too many pictures of himself over his page and sprinkles testimonials, including recognition by Time magazine for “not being afraid to tackle tough challenges head on.” In the section that allows users to post their heroes, O’Malley publishes a picture of himself.

Although Michael Steele’s laugh-out-loud commercials make it seem as if he understands how to use MySpace, his page proves disappointing. His About Me section is like reading a drab resume — and at nine paragraphs long, it becomes a bit monotonous reading about his place of birth and what church he attends.

Although I doubt MySpace is quite as reliable as a Gallup Poll in predicting elections, if the election were to be determined according to a candidate’s number of MySpace friends — hey, this is America, anything could happen — Ehrlich could make himself comfortable in the governor’s mansion for another four years. He has 688 friends to O’Malley’s 275 as of the time of this publication.

Although my journey through the politics of MySpace proved entertaining, I didn’t learn much. The same spiel plastered on various politicians’ MySpaces can be found on their campaign Web sites. Politicians seem to think young voters aren’t interested in a real picture of themselves — so they snip pieces of what they throw at Mr. and Mrs. Taxpayer to relate to a generation 30 years younger than them. It doesn’t work.

What politicians need to do is recognize the silent majority of young people who care about their future and issues that affect them. Come to the public schools you debate about, Ehrlich and O’Malley, and when you do don’t just meet with a select group of individuals who makeup very selective and advanced classes, but the average student.

Those seeking office need to realize their future in politics ultimately depends not on my parent’s generation, but on my generation and our future votes.

Talk to us, we’re listening.

Justin Snow is a senior at Dulaney High School and an intern at The Baltimore Examiner. Next fall, he plans to enter college and major in political science and journalism. He can be reached at jsnow@baltimoreexaminer.com

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