Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Thanks, Dr. Dean.

The surgery worked. Your reanimation procedure on the Democratic Party has taken hold. People are energized. They believe Bush is beatable. A lot of that started with you.

Thanks for moving online campaigning forward in Internet time, not political time. Wherever this goes, you helped get it going.

Thanks for being idealistic. Thanks for being yourself. Thanks for having a cool wife.

And thanks for announcing your decision today on your weblog. That was nice. I was driving to a meeting and heard on CBS radio news that you would be making a statement later, but had already posted at your "web site, or web log." Just hearing the newsreader say those words meant something.

Thanks, and good luck.

5:59:38 PM    comment []

Money is the killer app of web politics, the thing that will draw politicians with little understanding of the Internet to online campaigning.

Newly-minted Kentucky Congressman Ben Chandler made news for raising about $100,000 with ads placed on weblogs via the Blogads service. “The blogosphere has set the stage for the 2004 elections,” proclaim his victory ads, now running on several weblogs (including this one).

What the blogosphere did was nationalize the Kentucky race, drawing the attention of Democrats across the country who wanted to make a statement. This statement was made with donations. The money went straight into TV advertising – Chandler used his blog-dollars to buy all the TV ad time available to him in the last week of the campaign.

Other than that, Chandler’s use of the Web was perfunctory – a few broadcast emails to mailing lists compiled during an earlier run for Governor, and a website that boasted clean design and basic info but no blog, Meetup, etc.

Communication and organization are critical functions made easy by the Internet, already transforming presidential campaigns, sure to trickle down to local races. But for the moment, it’s all about the Benjamins, baby – and television.

Next time – and Chandler’s seat is up again in November – things will be different, predicts Kenneth Mansfield, creative director for the Chandler campaign. “The blog ads won't be nearly as effective for us or anybody else in November,” says Mansfield. “We were the only thing going in a really charged political environment."

But with time to run a full-fledged campaign, instead of the quick special election just held, Mansfield sees Web tools coming into play in Chandler’s 16-county district. “Absolutely, the field organization can use the Web as a coordination tool,” he says. “The Web is the way to talk to volunteers. You’ll see password-protected pages at sites for coordinators, used the way people use newsgroups now."

A handful of races will still attract national attention – hot contests that could tip the party balance in Congress or the Senate. One such race should be the North Carolina campaign for John Edwards’ seat – NC Senate races being expensive and high-profile, the Senate being closely divided, and the NC seat being winnable for both parties. If I’m Erskine Bowles, I’m running blog ads with pictures of Jesse Helms on them, tomorrow...

9:53:02 AM    comment []