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Ted Cruz asks his Facebook friends about Obamacare, gets an earful

Media IndustryAffordable Care Act (Obamacare)Twitter, Inc.Goldman Sachs Group, Inc.JPMorgan Chase & Co.Tea Party Movement

The Olympiad of officials and institutions reaching out to the public via social media and not hearing what they expected has a new champion: Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).

Back on March 24, Cruz posted an informal survey on his verified senatorial Facebook page. It read: "Quick poll: Obamacare was signed into law four years ago yesterday. Are you better off now than you were then? Comment with YES or NO!"

It's probably fair to say that he didn't expect the tsunami of "YES" votes that have shown up on the page among the 47,000 that Facebook says have been posted. 

Respondents have listed, among other things, their newfound ability to obtain coverage despite preexisting medical conditions, the right of young adults to stay on their parents' policies to age 26, lower premiums and the end of lifetime benefit limits. 

Some posted impolite remarks about Cruz's personality or political positions. And some -- rather tactlessly, we thought -- observed that Cruz himself isn't subject to Obamacare. He gets his coverage through Goldman Sachs, where his wife is an executive. But the general tenor of remarks is that the Affordable Care Act is a good thing, that Cruz should get out of its way already and that, if anything, he should be working to improve it, not overturn it. 

Cruz's experience with social media outreach is reminiscent of a couple of other high-profile efforts that didn't turn out the way their sponsors expected. In October, Fix the Debt, the plutocrat-backed front group for deficit-cutters, staged a question-and-answer session on Twitter, evidently hoping to instill the younger generation with its message that Social Security and Medicare were a plot by seniors to land the millennial generation in the poorhouse.

Didn't play out that way. The group's Twitter feed was inundated with impertinent queries ("What's more popular at your board meetings, the blood of workers or tears of homeless seniors? Asking for a friend.")

JPMorgan Chase plainly failed to learn from Fix the Debt's experience when it scheduled a Twitter Q&A with one of its investment banking chiefs a month later. As sample questions rolled in during the run-up to the chat ("Did you always want to be part of a vast, corrupt criminal enterprise or did you 'break bad'?"), the bank hastily canceled the event.

And now Cruz. The tea party favorite surely expected his faithful followers to fill his feed with complaints about the Affordable Care Act as the thin end of the wedge of socialism hammered into the American system, as a Titanic about to hit an iceberg, as a massive ripoff and boondoggle. What he learned instead is that any time you venture into the social-media multiverse, what you see may surprise you.

The question is whether Cruz will take his "friends'" responses to heart. Here's our informal quick poll:

"Will Ted Cruz change his mind about Obamacare based on what he's heard from followers? Comment with YES or NO!"

Reach me at @hiltzikm on Twitter, Facebook, Google+ or by email. MORE FROM MICHAEL HILTZIK

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