How Jared Polis Won the Internet

Jared Polis is the most popular congressman--at least on the Internet.

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The "Online All-Star Competition" may sound like a Dancing With The Stars gimmick, or contest in the Major Leagues, but instead it was more than 50 members of Congress who competed to see who could attract the largest social media following this year.

Chief among them was Democratic Colorado Rep. Jared Polis, a tech entrepreneur and the winner of the three-week geeky contest, who wooed thousands of constituents by meeting them online, and then not leaving them alone.

How he won them over:

1. Animal photos.

If cat photos are the first love of the Internet, cute dog photos aren't far behind. When Polis posted a picture of his terrier mix Gia to Reddit, the self-described "front page of the Internet," the Congressman included the caption: "if u really like her then stick 'like facebook.com/jaredpolis if u like this dog' all over it and post it on cute animal parts of Reddit." When one Reddit user mocked Polis for trying to create an Internet meme, Polis replied, good-naturedly: "yeah it's sad how i offered to memewhore poor Gia out."

2. Internet freedom.

After a Reddit user criticized Polis with some colorful language for spending his time drumming up fans instead of getting work done, Polis wrote back: "hmmm, given who controls Congress, be careful what you wish for... Getting 'some actual work done' could mean more SOPA/PIPA type laws or more tax breaks for special interests!" SOPA and PIPA are two anti-piracy laws fiercely opposed by Internet freedom advocates last year, and much of the opposition to the laws surfaced on Reddit.

[See: Latest political cartoons]

3. Marijuana legalization.

Polis became a bit of an Internet hero when he was caught on video in June questioning DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart about whether marijuana was really worse than other drugs. When Leonhart refused to answer, Polis did not let her off the hook. "Yes, no, or I don't know?" he asked her. "If you don't know this, you can look this up. As the chief administrator for the Drug Enforcement Agency, I'm asking a very straightforward question."

One Polis fan wrote on the congressman's Facebook page after seeing the video: "I just watched you grill Michelle the Asst DEA, and I have to applaud you for showing how stupid, dumb, and out of touch she is with the reality of medical marijuana, u are now my favorite politician, thank you for sticking up for the people."

4. Humor.

Polis' tweets are all pretty darn funny, and often irreverent. "Practice your #olympics pommel horse routine on the coffin #ThingsNotToDoDuringAFuneral," he wrote Friday. "This would really spice up the @DemConvention or @GOPconvention," Polis said Saturday, linking to a Boing Boing story on an a giant robotic machine.

5. Understanding social networks.

Polis actually understands the sites he's using, unlike, say former Louisiana Gov. Buddy Roemer, who is known for deleting his tweets, or Louisiana Congressman John Fleming, who shared an Onion story on Facebook as if the Onion were a real news site.

"Twitter reaches half a billion people worldwide... How many of them r spambots?" Polis wrote this weekend on Twitter, naming a very real and growing problem on the network. On Reddit, Polis was one of the first politicians to hold an AMA, or "Ask Me Anything," where he answered a range of tough (and sometimes nasty) questions. On Facebook, his posts in a week will range from ICYMI stories (in case you missed it), to information on an upcoming town hall, to a personal photo of his daughter.

Trailing right behind Polis in the Online All-Star Competition was Democratic Iowa Rep. Bruce Braley, and Democratic California Rep. Karen Bass. What we want to know is: Where in the name of Twitter power users is Cory Booker on this list?

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  • Elizabeth Flock is a staff writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can contact her at eflock@usnews.com or follow her on Twitter and Facebook.