MTV Political Game A Winner

You may be a dyed-in-the-wool Massachusetts Democrat appalled that somehow the state has a Republican senator. But if you’re playing to win with MTV, you want no part of Elizabeth Warren so far.

Warren, the Democratic candidate trying to unseat GOP Sen. Scott Brown, isn’t scoring well in early returns for “Fantasy Election ’12,” a clever game just launched by MTV. Designed to get young people more engaged with public affairs, it’s supposed to be fantasy football for politics. Trouble is, it may excite Beltway insiders and political junkies more than apathetic teenagers.

All federal candidates -- from the two for President to all the others running for the House and Senate -- run up points or lose them, just like the Patriots’ Tom Brady with an NFL fantasy league. But unlike touchdown passes, what counts in fantasy politics are constituency engagement, honesty, transparency, civility and public opinion.

The five qualities are determined by nonpartisan organizations such as PoliFact and the Center for Responsive Politics, which can go up and down based on what happens on the actual campaign trail. A candidate making a bogus statement suffers; a candidate focusing on an issue instead of launching barbs in a TV commercial fares better.



Using Facebook, fantasy leagues can be formed with between five and 12 participants. Each player drafts a “dream team.” Competition starts Sept. 10. 

It’s early, but Massachusetts' Warren is struggling with a -835 score. Her opponent Brown is soaring with a +1,512.

Constituents of New Jersey’s sixth congressional district can be proud. It appears their Rep. Frank Pallone (D) leads all candidates nationwide with a +5,302. Someone named James Reed (D) running for an open House seat in California looks to be in last place with a -10,421.

President Obama would settle for the MTV rankings determining whether he stays in office. He’s at a +2,274. Mitt Romney? On the eve of the GOP convention has some work to do at -647.

Members of fantasy leagues can trade or drop candidates. Last week, Missouri senate candidate Todd Akin, the one with the offensive comments about “legitimate rape,” had to be a quick waive. He’s now at a -911.

Not sure if MTV is getting super PAC-like money, but it has signed Kia and Lenovo as sponsors. Their involvement will also include MTV’s broader election awareness efforts on-air.

(Digital agency HYFM built the cool fantasy game and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation supported it with a $250,000 grant.)

Fantasy players struggling to find the right mix of candidates can earn extra points in their leagues by reading articles at Politico’s and BuzzFeed’s Web site and by using GetGlue and foursquare to “check-in” on political debates.

MTV will award thousands prizes to random players, with the crème de la crème being $25,000 to the winner and the chance to take three friends to the 2013 “Video Music Awards.”

MTV says its initiative gives young people a chance to “hold candidates accountable.” Unfortunately, that may be a fantasy.

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