Democratic Senate John Fetterman’s hopeful campaign to overthrow Republican opponent Dr. Mehmet Oz defeat has dominated Facebook and Twitter in recent weeks. But on Thursday, the campaign announced it is launching an official TikTok account to expand the reach of its already viral videos.
The campaign formally launched the TikTok account with a video of Fetterman he wore his signature black hoodie and spoke directly to the camera. In the short video, Fetterman makes an anticipated punch to Oz and the festering controversy over the authenticity of the Trump-backed Pennsylvania candidate.
“I’m on TikTok now. Woohoo!” says Fetterman at the end of the video.
The campaign’s decision to join TikTok follows a series of viral videos on social media attacking Oz. Earlier in the week. Twitter users dug up an old video of Oz shopping at a Redner’s supermarket in Pennsylvania. While the video was intended to criticize the rise in inflation under the Biden administration, Oz was quickly derided by Twitter users and the Fetterman campaign for his use of the word “crudité” and for seemingly mixing up the names of two state supermarkets, Redner’s and Wegmans, in “Wegners”.
Commenting on the video, Fetterman said, “In PA, we call this a…veggie tray.”
The Fetterman campaign announced Tuesday that it had raised more than $500,000, just one day after Oz’s rude gaffe went viral.
TikTok started gaining ground in the US in 2018, and it wasn’t until the 2020 cycle that politicians and their campaign arms started creating accounts and investing in the platform. This year, there are more politicians than ever active on TikTok, but Democrats and left-wing candidates have adapted the fastest.
“As this campaign has been since the beginning, we will continue to meet voters wherever they are and have a lot of fun with it,” Joe Calvello, spokesman for the Fetterman campaign, said in a statement to The edge on Thursday.
Pennsylvania is a must-win seat for Democrats hoping to gain a majority in the Senate after the midterm elections. In 2020, President Joe Biden won the state by slightly more than 1 percent, effectively marking it this cycle as a toss-up. With only a few months left before the November election, the Pennsylvania youth vote could be needed more than ever if Democrats intend to win the state. A recent study from Tufts University in Massachusetts found that Pennsylvania is one of only a handful of states where the youth vote could disproportionately determine the winner.
That excessive youth impact is a particular focus for Fetterman’s team. Speak with The edge on Tuesday, Calvello said the Fetterman campaign’s TikTok account would be managed by a Generation Z employee with about 25,000 in her personal account. By putting the account in the hands of a young person, the campaign hopes to create content that feels natural to the platform.
Still touts the Fetterman campaign an impressive lead against Oz in recent polls, including a Fox News poll that showed Fetterman an 11-point lead.
While political campaigns have come under fire for failing to address harmful election information, political campaigns still view social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter as fundraising powerhouses. In an interview with The edge on Tuesday, Alex Kellner, managing partner director at Bully Pulpit Interactive, an online strategy firm, said: “There’s still a lot of money being spent on Facebook, but maybe it’s more for acquisition, fundraising and communicating with your existing supporters to volunteer and to be excited.”
TikTok’s parent company, ByteDance, is based in Beijing, and the app’s potential to leak sensitive US data to the Chinese government is a cause for concern among Republicans and Democrats. Earlier this summer, the Biden administration banned use of the app on White House or federal government devices for security reasons. as first reported by Politics.
Fetterman’s online jabs at Oz have found a sweet spot on social platforms like Facebook, which are increasingly showing low-production video content on user feeds. With just seconds to grab a voter’s attention as they scroll, experts say more authentic content tends to get more engagement than well-produced campaign ads.
As the Fetterman camp sees it, that gives them a rare advantage on social platforms often seen as prone to extreme views and reactionary politics. “John’s followers will see brand new content specifically for TikTok, and they can expect to keep up with John as he meets people across the Commonwealth,” Calvello said. “John is a unique candidate whose real, authentic message resonates on social media, as TikTok users will see in his posts.”