Sunday, April 17, 2011

Presidential Politics Goes Digital

During the 2008 presidential campaign Republican candidate John McCain famously told reporters he didn't use email. McCain's lack of Web savvy was just one element that contributed to his defeat at the hands of an Obama campaign that was arguably the most Internet savvy in history at the time.

Well as we approach the next presidential campaign season it looks like the Republicans have learned from (at least some of) McCain's mistakes. Former Minnesota governor and 2012 Republican hopeful Tim Pawlenty announced his candidacy via Facebook. Mitt Romney used Twitter. Other potential Republican candidates like Newt Gingrich and Haley Barbour, who have yet to officially throw their hats in the ring have been using the digital pulpit to criticize President Obama's policies.

Of course campaigning digitally is old news for the Dems who have long been the more tech savvy of the two parties. In 2004 Howard Dean used the Web to raise money in an unprecedented manner that a then Illinois senator Barack Obama certainly took notice of. In 2008 the Obama campaign utilized the web to raise money and drum up support in a manner that left the McCain campaign largely dumbfounded as to what hit them.

This time around President Obama has launched his reelection bid by emailing a digital video to 13 million of the online backers who helped him capture the White House three years ago. However President Obama is perhaps more aware than anybody that in national politics the Web is a blade that cuts both ways. His line about disenfranchised voters in certain states clinging to guns and Bibles was pumped up and flung back at him via Web channels.

Of course the campaign is still a year off and as anyone who follows technology knows that's a long time in Web terms. It's possible that the most powerful and effective means of reaching voters in the next campaign hasn't even emerged yet.

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