The photos on Mark Zuckerberg’s Facebook feed the last few months make him look less like a Silicon Valley CEO, and more like an Iowa Caucus contender.
So is the Facebook founder angling to become commander in chief?
He’s certainly crossing some candidate rituals off the to-do list, like posting pictures of himself eating local fare with some residents in early voting states, donning a fluorescent vest on a factory floor, and even shooting hoops with both of swing-state North Carolina’s most beloved NCAA coaches, Roy Williams and Mike Krzyzewski.
“For an engineer and business tycoon to, all of a sudden, be kind-of hanging out with regular people, it does send a lot of political messages,” said Matt Schlapp, President George W. Bush’s former political director. “This is clearly political activity. Is it just to further popularize Facebook? Or is there a more personal goal here?”
But the summer vacation itinerary that closely resembles a Super-Tuesday swing isn’t the only reason political watchers think the social network pioneer may try his hand at politics.
Zuckerberg also recently hired former Clinton pollster Joel Benenson to work at the Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, a charitable foundation the CEO runs with his wife, which already has former Obama campaign guru David Plouffe on the payroll.
"You don’t tend to hire pollsters unless you want to know what people are thinking,” Schlapp said. “So my guess is the pollster is helping him understand the American people.”
If Zuckerberg decides to run for president, some on the left already forecast some hurdles. Published reports say he's not registered with either party, but some experts say he's likely to run as a Democrat.
“To survive the Democratic primary, the first thing he is going to need to do is appeal to women more than he has been able to do as a corporate leader so far,” explains Democratic strategist Pablo Manriquez. "One of the big criticisms of Facebook Inc. is that they don’t hire women, women aren’t elevated, and women’s voices are suppressed internally.”
Just more than one-third of Facebook’s workforce is female, according to newly released company data. The 35 percent of women working at Facebook represents an increase over last year.
"He’s looking at running against [California Democratic Senator] Kamala Harris, [Massachusetts Democratic Senator Elizabeth] Warren, and a lot of people who are just not going to give him a pass on that, the way he gets in the tech sphere,” Manriquez said.
None of this means primary success is impossible for Zuckerberg, though.
"Donald Trump has shown that the American people have a great appetite for getting rid of the experts in politics, and trying new things,” Schlapp said. "I don’t think it’s implausible for the idea of a Mark Zuckerberg candidacy to really take fire.”