Political Ringtones: Is that McCain on the Phone?

Bumper stickers and buttons proudly display political messages, but with 220 million cell-phone users across America, how about gaining support for a campaign through the mobile legions?

Political ring tones got attention overseas in 2005 when a wiretap of a phone call between the Philippine president and an election official that seemed to hint at election-rigging became a top downloaded ring tone of 2005.

Here at home, ring tones are much more likely to espouse policy positions. One Web site, Ringtones08.com, allows people to create and share politically inclined ring tones for free. Among those available for download is a snippet from the Youtube.com fan-girl video, “I’ve Got a Crush on Obama”; a reggae song about Ron Paul’s support of freedom of expression; and a looped sound bite from John McCain’s Larry King Live interview where he says, “I march to my drummer and always have.”

Candidates are getting into the act: Barack Obama’s Web site offers seven ring tones, including a song reminiscent of ’90s rap that sings, “Go, go, Obama, Obama.” Mobile-phone addicts also have the option of a sound bite from a speech on Iraq looped over techno beats.

Youmail.com offers a free voicemail service that allows users to set up personalized greetings or choose from user-created options. Among the political offerings is a clip of Glenn Beck calling Hillary Clinton’s voice annoying. “It’s not what she says, it’s how she says it,” Beck says.

This piece originally appeared in the September 2007 edition of the magazine.

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