Maine's Twitter Wars Begin
Matt Gagnon has been on a roll lately. The Virginia-based Republican who authors the Pine Tree Politics blog has been posting interesting and informative updates regularly for the past few weeks and has been asking important questions like "Where the heck is Dawn Hill?"
Gagnon has also begun profiling Maine's 151 House districts. Unfortunately, if he continues at his current rate of one every fifteen days, it will be 2016 before he's finished.
What really proves Gagnon's online accomplishment, however, is the arrival of that truest marker of online success: an anonymous Twitter feed, created to attack him personally.
Since its creation on December 11 (shortly after Gagnon deleted a serious of astroturf comments from his blog supporting Republican gubernatorial candidate Bruce Poliquin) @pinetreephony has been posting Twitter-based vitriol under the name "Matt Gagginon."
So far, the only serious complaint the anonymous antagonist has lodged is that Gagnon is biased toward Poliquin's Republican rival Matt Jacobson and that the blogger has performed work for the Jacobson campaign by creating and editing the candidate's page on wikipedia.
Jacobson is listed as a contributing author on Pine Tree Politics and Gagnon admits that he worked on the wikipedia page, but says he hasn't shown any favoritism and hasn't received any payment from Jacobson or any other campaign.
"They are accusing me of working for Jacobson, when I am obviously not," said Gagnon by e-mail. "I very much like him, and most of the other candidates, so I have been happy to lend advice to them - but that is where it ends."
"Anyone who seriously reads Pine Tree Politics knows I have given favorable attention to ALL the Republicans, Independent Eliot Cutler, and even a number of Democrats, including Rosa Scarcelli. Unless I'm in the pocket of all of them, this is a rather absurd accusation."
While Gagnon seems to be in the clear, the idea of bloggers working for candidates and even being paid surreptitiously for their work is a legitimate concern. In the 2004 South Dakota Senate race, for instance, it was found after the election that two political blogs in the state known for supporting successful Republican candidate John Thune and attacking Democratic incumbent Tom Daschle had actually been authored by paid consultants to the Thune campaign.
While there's no proof of involvement by any campaigns, blogs where the main purpose is support (or, more often, opposition to) a single candidate have also become commonplace in Maine over the last few election cycles. Tom Allen Watch and Collins Watch were both active in 2008 (and Collins Watch is still updating) and the anonymous author of the Pingree Report, a blog hosted by the conservative Web site As Maine Goes (and now aparently defunct), spent several weeks attacking the freshman Democratic congresswoman earlier this year.
Gagnon isn't the only one to be getting the Twitter treatment. On Friday, Kennebec Journal reporter Susan Cover noted that an anonymous account has been set up to harass Republican gubernatorial candidate Les Otten. @OttenFAIL seems to have a bit more dirt to work with than @pinetreephony, and in the space of eleven tweets has already attacked Otten on everything from his alleged plagiarism to his business practices to his political contributions to Democrats.
With so many candidates in the governor's race all looking for an advantage, this kind of online tactic will likely only increase in use as the race heats up. These first few tweets may be just the beginning.