The term “Obamamania” was coined in 2007 to describe the immensely energized and motivated supporters of Barack Obama, a Democratic presidential candidate. Many commentators remarked on the sudden surge of popularity for Obama with some incredulity, asking how it was that the nation had been gripped in Obamamania. Supporters of the candidate suggested that his immense popularity reflected his strong connection with the American electorate.
The term is a reference to the “Beatlemania” which swept the globe in the 1960s. Many fans of the Beatles exhibited frenzied behavior at concerts and other events, while at the same time the popularity of the Beatles rose immensely, with their albums topping the charts and dominating the air waves. Obamamania was characterized by a similar almost frenzied level of devotion from such fans, leading to a great deal of public attention for the candidate.
As a candidate, Barack Obama had a number of distinctive features which attracted public commentary long before he officially committed to the presidential race, not least of which was his relative youth for a presidential candidate. He was a relatively unknown candidate, surging into the public eye with a speech at the Democratic National Convention in 2004. The fact that Obama was African-American was also a topic of discussion in a country which had only elected white presidents.
The phenomenon of Obamamania appeared to originate among more youthful Americans, who were perhaps attracted to the candidate because of his perceived progressive social policies, along with his relative youth. Some people also commented that Obama was a very charismatic candidate, capturing people at political rallies and other events with extremely well written and delivered speeches, along with a flair for performance. The rise of Obamamania also signaled a shift in American politics, with supporters relying on a wide range of means to get the word out about their candidates.
Obama fans dominated the internet, for example, starting numerous websites to promote the candidate and posting hundreds of videos, blog entries, and audio commentaries on the candidate. Some Obama fans went to great lengths, as was the case with “Obama Girl,” a woman who attracted a great deal of public attention with a somewhat sexualized video about the candidate called “I Got a Crush on Obama.”
Obama's early command of grassroots support undoubtedly helped propel his campaign, with supporters donating through his website, attending rallies, holding informational sessions, and unabashedly passing out leaflets around the country. Obama fans also made political posters, stenciled their home towns, and expressed their support on the airwaves, in newspaper columns, and in other more traditional venues.