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Political Communication Tools Used in Presidential Campaigns and National Politics

Matt DeLuca
Mattdeluca.gop@gmail.com

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Since the 2000 elections more and more Americans have begun using the Internet for receiving

their news and political information. As a result, politicians as a whole have begun using the

Internet more and more for campaigning and other political operations. Using the Internet allows

for quicker political communication, data gathering and analysis because in today’s increasingly

connected world, politicians must stay up to speed - because staying connected with constituents

and voters is a vital aspect of politics and campaigning. The presidency of George W. Bush

created a fervor within the Democratic base and liberal blogs, and throughout his eight years in

office, the Democratic base used the Internet to fuel their candidates and platform, and the

Republican Party began to use the Internet. Howard Dean’s ground-up ‘Dean-Machine’ was one

of the first successful voter programs that used the web and Barack Obama took the key elements

from that program and has created a successful web system that helped deliver victories in the

primary elections. The GOP has used the web to create a GOTV database called Voter Vault and

numerous Web 2.0 tools on John McCain’s main campaign site and the RNC homepage. John

McCain’s supposed technological failings have been brought up throughout the 2008 campaign

yet has not stopped his campaign from having an Internet presence.

Tools such as Twitter became a primary political tool during the primaries when Twitterers

would report on GOTV efforts and results. The opinions of Twitters all throughout the primary

elections allowed mash ups to be created to show geo-tagged ‘’tweets’ on a map. Google and

Twitter created an application, which allowed one to see where twits were occurring. Twitter has

since proved to be a useful political opinion tool — despite the fact Twitter users are limited to

140 characters. Twitter has been shown to be useful in political opinion and breaking news.

Anyone can access Twitter and the number of political tweets is quite astounding. The

presidential debates were so tweeted about that Twitter was forced to create a live-updating site

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for election tweets only. Current.TV also used Twitter to allow user commentary on the

Presidential debates in real time. Normal Twitter users can also report quickly on developing

news stories. With a cell phone or web-browser any American can become a reporter breaking a

news story. Congressional Republicans used Twitter to tweet about the ‘#dontgo’ movement

during the summer energy crisis over Nancy Pelosi’s decision to close congress over the summer

without an energy solution. Digg was used during the RNC and DNC to ask user-submitted

questions to prominent Republicans and Democrats and has been a mainstay in ranking political

stories. Internet tools such as Facebook, MySpace, Twitter, YouTube and Wikipedia along with

the voter databases run by the RNC and DNC are the future of social political tools. This paper

will detail the types and usages of web-based political tools that have been created during the

Bush Administration and their usage by various campaigns in the 2004 and 2008 election cycles.

Political Party Tools

One of the key uses of the Internet is to build databases of voter data and access that

through different applications for different purposes. Because data entry can be easily done

automatically by scanners or by hand more campaigns and political operatives are recognizing

the importance of capturing, storing, analyzing and using voter information. What used to take

days of analyzing can now take minutes by using computers to analyze important information.

That data can also be used offline or online for a number of different ways and the usage of these

systems have become key components of the political system.

The Republican National Committee was one of the first to make targeted voter databases a

priority in campaigning. They used their existing database information and bought consumer

data from 3rd parties to improve voter IDs. Then in order to improve targeting the RNC used

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surveys to break down voting blocs. The RNC took this data and built into a web database

program that allowed operatives to download the data from VoterVault. Future revisions of

VoterVault would include walking directions, VOIP options, better stability and better data

collection options. The benefits of VoterVault include its mobility and robustness and usefulness

in a variety of campaign functions. The RNC has invested a lot of time and money into the

database and training operatives how to use it effectively. The backbone of the RNC’s Victory

movement is utilizing aspects of VoterVault and collecting and analyzing data as efficiently and

quickly as possible. Because VoterVault is online it is also fairly mobile allowing it to be used

anywhere with an Internet connection.

Voter Vault was assembled to be an online database that could pull voter information and

micro target voters based on voting preferences and previous GOP/RNC surveys that had been

analyzed through the past several years for all GOP operatives. Voter Vault is also a key tool in

setting up VOIP databases and opinion polls. Voter Vault data can be downloaded and processed

through a program that will in turn allow a VOIP phone to dial specific voters and run an online

poll on the phone. Data inputted into the phone is in turn analyzed by the Victory staff and

simultaneously recorded on Voter Vault for future usage. This in turn cuts costs and solved

survey problems such as re-dial, non-responsive voters, wrong phone numbers, dead voters and

interviewer bias and error. Voter Vault and VOIP phone surveys are also extremely mobile and

can be used anywhere there is an Internet connection. Voter Vault can also be accessed on

mobile phones - however it is extremely difficult to use this due to the small form factor of

mobile web browsing.

The DNC has also invested in their own version of VoterVault, which they call

VoteBuilder. It is very similar to the RNC’s VoterVault but still trails in size however with the

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inclusion of the 2008 election’s social networking results VoteBuilder will likely quickly rise to

match the size and utility of the RNC’s VoterVault. The DNC has begun to train local officials

and campaigns how to use VoteBuilder and it will soon become as effective in the DNC’s

Victory/GOTV efforts as VoterVault.

Both of these tools underscore the importance of collecting voter information online and

being able to analyze and target voters. Using campaign social networks the information that is

provided by users can be data mined by these databases. It is vital to both parties to collect as

much data to improve targeting mailings and messages to the right voter in order to create cost-

effective campaign solutions. The future is bridging the gap between voter information and

targeting and Internet-based solutions are a first step in improving campaigning.

Online Tools

There are numerous tools that exist for the general public to use that also have a political

applicability. These tools are generally designed for the public to network or to be entertained.

These tools can include social networking sites, social news sites, forums, video sites, group

management sites and blogs. These tools have been embraced by many political campaigns and

operatives and -- even the general public in capturing voter attention and informing the voter

about politics in general. Because of the open access of the Internet many of these networks are

free and available to any person with access to the Internet (computers themselves are no longer

required as many phones also have Internet browsers built-in). Each tool shown here has a

variety of uses and because of the constantly changing nature of Internet sites and tools these

uses may be improved removed and expanded on by the developer based on user demands or

developer designs.

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MySpace

MySpace was one of the first social networking sites to expand and maintain user growth

in 2004 and beyond. It allows users to create profiles and post pictures, video, music, journals,

and much more for free. MySpace has over 100 million accounts and is considered one of the top

social networking sites. It is mainly advertising-driven and has begun to involve itself in politics.

MySpace launched a few political based portals within itself during the 2008 election. Included

within these was MyDebate, a debate-centered portal where users could discuss the Election.

Many 2008 presidential candidates and local candidates began to make accounts that featured

photos, blogs, videos, and a variety of ways for viewers to get involved with campaigning.

MySpace would feature these accounts on its front page during the election season for users to

follow and add these accounts as friends. Many political organizations have also created

MySpace accounts to keep in touch with, promote, and expand their membership base. These

range from larger organizations like Greenpeace and the ACLU to smaller locally focused

environmentalist groups such as ‘Food Not Bombs’ activists.

Facebook

Facebook is very similar to MySpace but took a different approach originally to forming a

user-base. Facebook originally was a college-centered website which was only open to certain

campuses, but it later opened access to high schools and the rest of the Internet. Now anyone

with an e-mail account can sign up for an account. Facebook has a wide array of applications and

pages that can be used by users. Groups and pages exist for users to invite friends and others into

a specified group section and can post videos, images, and links once invited into the group.

Officers can also send instantly mass emails and bulletins to users. Facebook users have shown

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an interest in political based groups and are an excellent way of developing bottom-up

networking. Facebook members can find candidates' entries by going to a section of the site

called Election Pulse and after searching for the candidate by name, party, or geographic

location, they can register their support. Facebook can then display the number of supporters for

each candidate and calculates the percentage of "votes" that candidate has in their race; while not

an accurate measure of the race because of it’s unscientific nature, it does give a glimpse of how

much support is being given through Facebook. Members also have the opportunity to post

comments on the candidate's "wall" and invite their friends to become supporters. Facebook has

also included fundraising capabilities, allowing candidates to raise money right on Facebook’s

page.

Many politicians have also created profiles that can be maintained by staffers. A Facebook

page can be created and fully written in about an hour by an intern or staffer and can be easily

maintained by anyone with access to the account. A constantly active profile will give the

semblance that the campaign is taking an interest on the happenings of Facebook. Meanwhile, a

profile that is merely created and never maintained makes the candidate look like they have no

interest on the users of the site. A 2006 academic study of Facebook found that:

“36 or 25% of candidates for U.S. Senate have posted their own profiles: 17
Democrats, 11 Republicans, 8 minor party candidates and independents; 139 or 12%
of candidates for U.S. House of Representative have posted their own profiles: 74
Democrats, 54 Republicans, 11 minor party candidates and independents; 52 or 43%
of candidates for state Governor have posted their own profiles: 32 Democrats, 14
Republicans, 6 minor party candidates and independents; 10 or 36% of Senate
incumbents running for reelection have posted a profile; 51 or 13% of incumbents
from the U.S. House; and 16 or 64% of the listed candidates for Governor have
personalized their profile.
Senate candidates with the largest number of supporters are: Hillary Clinton, NY,
Democrat (6,971); Bob Casey, PA, Democrat (5,328); and Ned Lamont, CT,
Democrat (4,093). The House candidates with the largest number of supporters are:
Tammy Baldwin, WI, Democrat (913); Dennis Moore, KS, Democrat (863); and
Patty Wetterling, MN, Democrat (693). The Republican with the most support and
ranked 9th overall is Speaker Dennis Hastert, IL, with 580 supporters. Candidates for

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Governor with the largest number of supporters are: Kinky Friedman, TX,
Independent (9,363), Dick DeVos, MI, Republican (5,732), and Ted Strickland, O,
Democrat (5,092).” (Levy)
2006 proved to be incredibly powerful political years and the response to the elections on

Facebook showed that this continued in 2008 and will likely continue for as long as Facebook

maintains its place as the top social networking site. The ease of access and use of Facebook

allow candidates to quickly communicate with individuals and post information cost-efficiently

and quickly.

Twitter

Twitter was developed as a status/micro-blogging site in which users could answer the

simple question “What are you doing?” in 140 characters or less. This 140-character cap is in

place so that users can update their status via mobile phone (140 characters is the cap for SMS

messages). Twitter has become a popular political tool for Congressmen and politicos alike.

During the 2008primaries Twitter became a popular way to quickly report political events

and happenings. Mashups involving Google Maps and Twitter began being created and users

could track geo-tagged Twitters and follow the primaries from those on the ground. Britney

Bohnet, from the "Google Elections Team" wrote:

"We've joined forces with Twitter to give you instant updates on Super Tuesday.
Instead of sitting on the sidelines, you can send a simple text message about your
voting experience. Huge turnout? Taking too long in line? Did you just vote for the
first time? We want it all, if you can keep to 140 characters or less." (Bohnet)
Soon anyone with a cell phone could become a reporter on the ground. Super Tuesday proved to

be a huge day of Twitter usage. Sites such as PoliTweeter showed tweets about the candidates as

they were posted. Soon Twitter would launch its own updating service called “Election 2008”

which showed what Twitter users were saying about politics.

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In early August House Speaker Nancy Pelosi shut down the House to stall a vote on

offshore oil drilling and to go on a book promotion tour. House Republicans, angered at this

breach of public trust, refused to leave the House and continued to speak on the floor even after

the lights and mics were turned off by Pelosi. House Republicans began using Twitter from the

floor using the Twitter hash tag #dontgo. House Republicans John Culberson (R-Tx) and Pete

Hoekstra (R-Mi) were among the first Republicans to start using Twitter and soon many others

began using the hash tag and were commenting on the movement. MoveOn.Org also began to

spam Twitter using the #dontgo tag but that only furthered the #dontgo message. Within two

days Dontgomovement.com, a website created to track and provide information about the

movement was created, saw a traffic surge of about 60,000 people, and added 21,000 names to a

petition to tell the House Speaker to call the Congress back for a special session. Patrick Ruffini,

a New Media political operative, wrote on the technology and politics blog, The Next Right

“#dontgo is positioned to be the event that at last restores Republicans to where they should be in

the House. Don’t lift the boot from Nancy and Steny’s neck. Let’s keep this going.” (Ham) Eric

Odom, one of the founders of the dontgo site, wrote on his blog “Now we have an e-mail list that

is well over 10,000 strong, our e-mail RSS subscriber list is about 1,200 strong, and we have a

Twitter army that simply has yet to be matched in size.”(Odom) Clearly building movements

using online tools is possible and powerful.

Current.TV and Twitter also proved that the mainstream media for political coverage could

use Twitter as well. Current.TV decided to overlay tweets that were directed to Current’s Twitter

account or tagged with a #current hash tag over their feed of the debate which could then be

watched live on TV or Current’s Internet video site. The result showed real-time feedback and

thoughts by Twitter users about the debate. Current used Ruby on Rails, a popular programming

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tool, to search keywords from the Twitter API, and built a Flash display that acted like an

additional camera in its San Francisco control room where it was overlaid on the video feed.

During each debate, Current used a team of editors and a lawyer to find the most topical and

FCC standards-compliant tweets. The fastest a tweet could travel from submission on Twitter to

airing on Current was 20 seconds. (Gannes)

While not totally representative of the population it was more entertaining than watching

CNN’s heart rate monitor and showed what the Internet was saying about the debates. Politic

rhetoric used by Obama and McCain became fodder for the tweets that were streaming on the

current feed. When Barack Obama used the phrases "Wall Street" versus "Main Street," a few

moments later several tweets appeared on screen that complained about the overused

comparison. "Main Street has become a hideous cliché in this debate," tweeted Tom Watson.

(Gannes) And when John McCain emphasized his travel to Afghanistan and Waziristan, it drew

this amusing comment from @lauraelizabethm who tweeted: "New McCain-Palin campaign

song: 'I've Been Everywhere' by Johnny Cash." Some of the Twitterers noted that McCain

looked relaxed, and Obama pensive, and that Obama's interruptions when McCain spoke

indicated that he felt defensive. According to NewTeeVee, over the course of the first debate

over 2,700 tweets made it to TV. (Gannes)

Wikipedia

Some will say that knowledge and information are the keys to power and no one will deny

that the Internet has expedited access to information. With the help of Wikipedia a user-

generated encyclopedia anyone can obtain knowledge within a few quick seconds with a

Wikipedia search. Wikipedia had 25,6-million unique visitors in March, making it the 18th-

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most-popular site on the Internet. (McCaffrey) However, one of the problems of having

Wikipedia open to the public is the possibility of false or exaggerated information being

distributed on the Internet. The ability to post seemingly anonymous information proved to be

dangerous for House operatives who in 2007 were discovered to be mass changing entries on

Wikipedia. Congressional Quarterly's Drew Armstrong reported,

"There are thousands of individual edits originating from computer users on the
House of Representatives network. While most of the changes are nothing more than
regular Wikipedia interactions on non-government topics, a hefty number include
edits to lawmaker’s entries -- and some House Wikipedians might not be entirely
pleased to see their handiwork exposed." (Armstrong)
Unfortunately, Wikipedia and other open websites leave the possibility of false and damaging

information to be posted. The draw to smear opponents or boost candidates becomes strong and

the damage can be career threatening. For example, CNN reported “Secretary of State Cathy

Cox's opponent, Lt. Gov. Mark Taylor, said Cox campaign manager Morton Brilliant altered an

online encyclopedia entry to include a reference to Taylor's son being arrested for DUI after an

accident that killed his passenger.” (Hamby)

YouTube

One of the largest and most popular video sites on the Internet is the video site You Tube.

YouTube was founded in 2005 and was designed to be a user-submitted video portal and has

blossomed into one of the most visited sites on the Internet. In 2006, it was bought for over one

billion dollars by Google and has continued to grow and expand. Its potential for political media

has been realized by many campaigns and YouTube was even a main sponsor of some of the

2008 presidential primary debates. By late October, 39 percent of voters had watched some sort

of campaign-related video online, according to the Pew Research Center, up from 24 percent

who said in December, before the primaries began, that they had watched political videos. "I

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think it's fair to say that this is the first election You Tube has played a critical role in helping the

president-elect to reach audiences and get people out to vote” said Steve Grove, YouTube's Head

of News and Politics. (Schwab)

YouTube recognized the importance of political video and created its own subsection

called YouChoose, which groups most of the political videos together so users can find them

more easily. YouTube’s service allows campaigns and individuals to post videos free of charge

and have them available to the world. This allows campaigns free video campaigns and has been

utilized by major and minor candidates. Nearly every single 2008 candidate had some type of

political video posted on YouTube. Hillary Clinton used You Tube to ask supporters what her

‘theme song’ should be and Barack Obama had a popular fan base - even having his own ‘fan

girl’ the eponymous Obamagirl.

YouTube has also been used to show gaffes made by politicians such as the ‘macaca’ gaffe

made by Senator George Allen, which would prove to be the end of the road for his campaign in

2006. CNN reported, “Gotcha moments on You Tube, unauthorized campaign videos and hard-

hitting debate questions from You Tube users are changing the political landscape. The You

Tube "Macaca moment" represents a broad new challenge for candidates.” (Hamby) Will.I.Am

also posted the popular ‘Yes We Can’ video on You Tube and many other user-submitted videos

have been posted that relate to the campaigns. "The 'Yes We Can' video captured the culture of

the Internet's interest in Obama at the beginning of the primary season," explains Andrew Rasiej.

"It was the perfect melding of Obama's political message with a desire for more engagement by

the American public manifested in a simple video instantly viewed by millions without any

influence by the mainstream media and the political parties themselves." (Schwab) Joe Biden

was caught making some racial remarks about Indians working at 7-11s at a fundraiser and that

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too was posted on YouTube. When Reverend Wright’s comments were buzzing around the

Internet the Obama campaign “immediately posted on You Tube the candidate's full rebuttal, a

37-minute-long speech on race he delivered to an audience in Philadelphia. The video clip

helped calm the controversy and attracted around 5.3 million views on the video-viewing

website, proving the popularity and impact of a medium that was first used widely this election

cycle.” (Schwab)

Digg

The social news site Digg was created to allow users to “Digg” the top tech stories they

discover on the Internet as well as discover other popular stories that other users have “dugg.”

Digg’s popularity has steadily grown, and it is now one of the more popular sites on the Internet.

In early 2006, the site introduced a wide variety of topics other than just tech, such as sports and

politics. Soon the website began to receive thousands of hits from interested politicos, and it is

becoming one of the top political sites for discovering new and popular stories. Ron Paul and

Barack Obama were popular candidates on Digg because of the tech-based campaigns; his

popularity grew to such a point that Ron Paul stories seemed to clog the site and at times

resembled spam.

In 2008, the site introduced its Digg Dialogue feature, which allowed users to submit

questions prior to the DNC and RNC for Nancy Pelosi and later Al Gore. The site had an

incredible response to this and later would partner with Current and Twitter to host an Election

Night coverage event that would detail top stories that were hitting the website as the results

came in on the Election. Digg has also sponsored events at both political party conventions,

including the Big Tent in Denver that hosted hundreds of bloggers and new media journalists.

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Digg’s popularity and future as a political tool will likely not decline, and Digg will

continue to be a popular tool for politicos and politicians. Digg Dialogue may likely to continue

as the new Obama Administration ushers in policies that foster debate online. Digg continues to

grow and expand and, campaigns should utilize social-driven news and promotion as a means of

increasing branding and bringing in new supporters. Ron Paul and Barack Obama both used

Digg to find new supporters and energize their own supporters to great success.

2004 Presidential Campaign

The 2004 Presidential campaign saw the rise of grassroots political power through the

Internet. Howard Dean was able to capture the anger of the left in the blogosphere and fuel his

campaign. Dean was able to map out a strategy that created a bottom-up network using social

networks to recruit other volunteers and to raise money for the campaign. Dean used the Internet

to overcome the advantage that higher-profiled Democrats had in fundraising and support. Dan

Ancona’s experience on the Dean campaign allowed him to discover how social networking

could be used in a political campaign:

“First, a campaign would need to invest in a social networking tool that would let
early supporters start to self-organize. Ideally the tool would let people find and
connect with each other, blog, easily manage email lists, set up their own house
parties and events, and maybe even do a little small-donor, person to person
fundraising. (Or rather a lot of that kind of fundraising, even.)
The second component would involve some way to turn all that self-organized
volunteer energy into a field program, and thereby turn volunteer energy into votes.
The tool to do that was some kind of web-based, distributable voter file system.
(Anacona)
These tools were nicknamed “Deanspace” and were the brainchild of campaign manager

Joe Trippi. Trippi realized that the Internet is very close to a true democracy and that it contained

resources that had yet to be utilized. Trippi harnessed the democratic nature of social technology

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and networking and used it for advocacy and to build support for Dean. Allowing every citizen

access to participate in the campaign made them feel like they were part of something bigger.

Deanspace was an attempt to create a complete web-based social networking toolkit for

campaign volunteers to deploy broadly, creating many sites for different groups and

geographical communities. These components allowed Dean to rise to the top of the Democratic

field. Dean also set new fundraising records using the Internet raising over 20 million dollars

online in March 2003. Deanspace’s success would later become the foundation of another

Presidential candidate’s campaign, Barack Obama. (Trippi) Using Internet tools like Meetup,

MySpace and Moveon.org allowed the Dean campaign to reach supporters that previously may

have been left behind or ignored. Dean’s usage of Meetup marked the first time a campaign had

outsourced online organizing to a commercial site. MoveOn.org also held the first online

endorsement poll, which Dean won with 43.9% of the vote.

John Kerry’s campaign was not particularly groundbreaking when it came to harnessing

the power of the Internet – Kerry’s campaign created a campaign blog but failed to create a

stunning toolkit similar to that of Dean’s and ran the same type of campaign that Democrats had

been running since the Carter administration. While Kerry didn’t use online tools to further his

message or base in any substantial way he did use the Internet to fundraise and create a volunteer

portal. SolutionSet, an Internet company that creates portals and databases worked with the

Kerry campaign to develop a working and effective volunteer portal. The Kerry Volunteer

Center became a management portal for over 1,000,000 volunteers nationwide and handled some

of the most critical political operations namely: fundraising, voter contact, and voter turnout

efforts. Using ‘The Kerry Volunteer Center’ the Kerry Campaign was able to set firsts in

fundraising - raising 3 million dollars in one day in June and then over 5 million dollars in July.

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(SolutionSet) However, the Volunteer Center never reached the level of success that Dean’s

Deanspace had reached.

George Bush and the RNC utilized Voter Vault, their online voter database, as their central

means for running Victory operations during the 2004 elections. Throughout the 2004 primaries

and general election period any individual who donated to the Bush campaign or RNC or entered

their information on the RNC or Bush websites was registered into Voter Vault allowing Voter

Vault to be constantly updated with new user information. Voter Vault was also used to send

targeted emails to voting blocs within the Republican base. The LA Times reported that “The

program allows ground-level party activists to track voters by personal hobbies, professional

interests, geography — even by their favorite brands of toothpaste and soda and which gym they

belong to.” (Wallsten) Voter Vault’s ability to break down voting blocs proved extremely

successful as Bush and the RNC were able to target the right voting blocs in key battleground

states such as Ohio and Florida.

2008 Elections

The 2008 election cycle is widely believed to be one of the most historic elections in

American history. Candidates began running early in 2007 and the amount of money raised and

spent on the campaigns will be the largest in history. Also of importance is the reliance and

usage of the Internet. The 2008 elections saw most of the candidates use the Web to attract voters

and volunteers with three candidates using the Web extensively. Ron Paul, Barack Obama and

Hillary Clinton all used the Internet to fuel their Presidential runs. Although Paul failed to win

any Republican primaries, he has shown that it is possible to run and attract followers through

the Internet. Both Obama and Clinton used the Internet and blogosphere extensively in their

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campaigns – yet it is Obama who still garners the most support from the blogosphere and easily

could be called the Democratic blogosphere nominee. Obama’s website is widely regarded by

political pundits as one of the most brilliant websites in political history. His bottom-up approach

allows any web user to join the campaign through his website and gives them access to different

outreach resources on the website. Obama, Paul and Clinton all used the Internet to fundraise

their campaigns. The Paul campaign was able to make one million dollars in one day just

through the Internet alone. A majority of the other presidential candidates also spent large

quantities of money in web advertising and built their own websites to harness the influence of

the blogosphere. It is important to look at the Obama, McCain, Paul and Clinton campaigns’

usage of the Internet, as they will become indicators of success in future elections.

Ron Paul

Libertarian Republican Texas Congressman Ron Paul could easily be called an Internet

candidate. Paul never gained much popular support offline but his online popularity easily

dominated any other candidates. Paul’s libertarian views attracted many Internet users who

primarily favor freedom over control. Paul’s followers crowded social networking sites such as

Digg and Facebook and his views, speeches and ads were spread all over the Internet:

“Pick any Web 2.0 phenomenon and you'll find Paul's supporters exploiting it.
Digg? In just two months, a user-generated campaign video picked up more than
16,000 diggs, making it the sixth-most popular video of 2007.
Flickr? A group photo pool offers a profusion of grassroots agitprop. (My favorite: a
Star Wars-inspired logo declaring Paul "A New Hope.")
Facebook? 5,589 fans and counting, baby. For 24/7 Ron Paul junkies can sign up for
his Twitter feed or check out the campaign lifecast on Justin.tv.
Meetup? There are 10 Ron Paul Meetup groups within 20 miles of San Francisco
alone; the biggest hosts near-daily events for its 432 members.
The candidate has proven such a draw that page view-starved webmasters publish

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lolRons — Paul-themed lolcats — as a cheap and easy way to boost their traffic.
Paul's people are so Web-savvy they've even achieved the impossible: a MySpace
page that doesn't induce seizures.” (Tanz)

Paul’s website was the leading website for hits before the Super Tuesday primaries. Paul’s

website outdrew mainstream Republican candidates Rudy Giuliani, John McCain and Mitt

Romney. Paul’s popularity on the web did not stop at the keyboard it also correlated into dollars

– he was able to use the Internet to primarily fund his campaign. On Guy Fawkes Day, Paul set a

campaign record for one-day fundraising by a Republican, pulling in $4.2 million in online

contributions. (RonPaul.com) He then outdid himself six weeks later, using the Internet for more

than $6 million in a single day. The same online followers of Paul were also offline followers –

showing up at user-created events and creating signs and media to display all over the country. A

drive along NJ’s Route 287 during the 2007 summer would see the site of over 20 different Ron

Paul banners or signs. Despite Paul’s inability to garner widespread support offline in the polls

and primaries, Ron Paul fans and volunteers tried their best to make sure that any Internet user

knew whom Ron Paul was and that he was their candidate. Ron Paul’s stance as an anti-war

Libertarian Republican conflicted with the rest of the Republican Party. Paul’s beliefs only

garnered support from a minority of Republicans despite the campaigns’ efforts to reach out to

the masses. This lead to Paul’s inevitable failure but Paul’s campaign showed that a candidate

could use the Internet to help drive their campaign. Paul’s popularity and usage of the Internet is

historic in that only one other candidate has come close to the support and success that Paul had

achieved.

Hillary Rodham Clinton

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Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign also used the Internet throughout her campaign but

not as extensively as Barack Obama or Ron Paul’s campaign. Whereas Obama and Paul’s

campaign allowed the user to become part of the campaign, Clinton’s campaign used the Internet

merely as a one-way street to users with only a few ways to participate in the campaign.

However, despite this, Clinton drew both ire and attention from the blogosphere. Clinton’s

comments on Obama’s suspected plagiarism of speeches, his lack of readiness at 3am, her arrival

in Bosnia under sniper fire all drew criticism from bloggers on both the left and right. The right-

wing blogs also have had a field day criticizing Clinton for her campaign mistakes and claims.

Because of Clinton’s determination to stay in the race

The presence of social networking and media sites has also opened new ways for liberal and

conservatives to attack Clinton. In response to Clinton’s claim to be ready at 3am, Slate’s John

Dickerson asked during a press conference for an example of when Hillary has been “tested by

crisis.” After six seconds of silence, Clinton chief strategist Mark Penn finally attempted a

response. Within hours You Tube user mingusx902 was able to record a parody video with a

ticking clock ala ‘24’ showing just how long those seconds actually were and making Penn and

Clinton look even worse. The number of Clinton parody ads on You Tube and other social

networking sites are astounding. Clinton also took advantage of the new DNC Voter Vault

competitor - VoteBuilder. She and Barack Obama both used VoteBuilder extensively to target

voters through offline and online mailing. VoteBuilder, like VoterVault, could be used to fuel

call centers with numbers and data for volunteers. Clinton and Obama both used websites to run

their call centers through - Clinton primarily used text based scripts and simple radio buttons on

her website making it easy to select a specific response. Clinton also used a registration system

for volunteers that would ask volunteers when they could volunteer - this allowed the campaign

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to send emails to volunteers giving them times and locations where they could volunteer. This

data was also used to update VoteBuilder databases and add new entries for volunteers that were

previously not in VoteBuilder.

John McCain

Senator John McCain’s campaign suffered many blows throughout 2007 – much of the

campaign staff was let go throughout the summer of 2007 and McCain’s comments on Iraq and

Iran were slightly damaging. However, McCain recovered in the Republican debates and through

careful planning and campaigning was able to navigate the Super Tuesday primaries and lock up

the Republican nomination. McCain’s 2000 campaign was focused on independents, moderates

and used the Internet slightly. His 2000 campaign used the web for organizing, and was

rewarded with impressive support at the time, including 86,000 registered web supporters. After

he won the 2000 New Hampshire primary, he was able to raise $2.2 million in a week just

through the Internet. (Pew Internet) In February 2000, McCain held what is believed to be the

first presidential campaign political fundraiser held entirely on the Internet. McCain,

campaigning in South Carolina, spoke in Washington and 17 other places via the Internet.

McCain’s campaign did not create any new or spectacular tools to use but rather made sure that

he had a consistent presence on the Internet and offline. McCain’s website is not a spectacular

website –traffic to his website still lags behind that of Obama’s and Clinton’s websites. Conn

Carroll, a blogger for The Heritage Foundation explains why:

"I wouldn't expect any bump in online traffic or activity for McCain. He won the
nomination on the backs of moderates and independents. Moderates and
independents don't spend any time online obsessing about politics…While McCain's
Internet audience lags far behind both Obama and Clinton; his official websites allow
more dissent and tough feedback than the Democratic candidates, according to an
unscientific comment experiment conducted by The Nation. We posted about 50

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comments on the candidates' websites and You Tube accounts, ranging from bland
encouragement to policy criticism to sharp complaints. Only the McCain Campaign
posted every comment.” (The Heritage Foundation)

McCain’s focus online was on advertising and making sure that there was a focus on Internet

ads. McCain had 12 times the exposure of other candidates because of heavy online advertising

in April 2007, generating nearly 26 million unique impressions. Senator McCain generated over

40 million unique Internet impressions utilizing paid Internet advertisements in just April and

May 2007 from both image- and sponsored link based ads. (Pew Internet) In comparison, Mitt

Romney had 5.8 million unique impressions and Friends of Hillary made just 2 million

impressions.

McCain also created a series of online tools for their supporters. The McCain campaign

created a online tax estimator tool, a MySpace clone called “McCain Space” which would take

user submitted data and update Voter Vault, and an online Action Center which gave points to

users who fulfilled campaign goals. These goals included: recruiting 10 friends, registering to

vote, making phone calls, downloading flyers, hosting parties, attending events, joining McCain

Space (a MySpace clone). McCain Space is a place where users can discuss and interact with

other McCain supporters. McCain Space has forums, videos, pictures and blogs along with an

online store. McCain also has links to MySpace, Facebook and You Tube groups on his website

for users to join. McCain’s call system in the Action Center is once again powered by data from

VoterVault and uses a web based portal which allows supporters to make phone calls from

anywhere they have access to the Internet and a phone. The call script asks the callee who they

are supporting, how strong they are supporting them, what their major key issue is and their

email. The McCain online call script uses drop down fields to make selection information easy.

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(JohnMcCain.com)

Barack Obama

If Ron Paul was the GOP master of the Internet then Barack Obama is his equivalent for

the Democratic Party. Barack Obama’s campaign has taken the success of Howard Dean’s

campaign, fused it with a standard ground campaign, and reaped the rewards that the

blogosphere can provide. Obama has been able to recruit new volunteers and supporters through

his website and give them access to all sorts of campaign tools that can be used to promote the

campaign. Obama’s campaign has allowed users to create their own videos for the campaign –

leading to a rise of user submitted content that the campaign does not have to purchase. Obama’s

platforms of change, hope and destiny have captured the respect and support of the blogosphere.

Obama’s campaign easily could be considered the first legitimate blogosphere candidate because

of his support online and offline. Obama’s campaign also did not happen to stumble upon the

Internet rather Obama’s campaign made the Internet a central part of the campaign. “Obama

spent more than $2 million on hardware and software, paid the Internet consulting firm Blue

State Digital nearly $400,000 and paid technology consultant Joseph Rospars more than

$90,000.” (Mosk)

In April 2007, Nielsen NetRatings reported that although Obama has spent very little on

official online advertisements he leads any other candidate by an impressive spread: “Obama had

nearly double the amount of Buzz than Hillary Clinton (who is ranked #2 in terms of Buzz

volume).” (Nielsen) Obama’s website in April 2007 garnered over nearly 4 million page views.

The Obama campaign implemented a brilliant grassroots campaign that uses a bottom-up

approach to reach other voters. The result is that one volunteer for Obama can recruit more

 23


volunteers who will in turn either support the campaign and/or also recruit more volunteers for

the campaign. The tools and resources available to a regular volunteer from the Obama website

are unmatched by any other campaign and the campaign knows that it is important to involve

every single visitor to the website because they are a potential vote and a potential recruiter for

more votes. Obama’s website allows users to create their own Obamalogs and blog about

Obama’s campaign and create content for the campaign for a small or no cost at all. Obama’s

bottom up approach also has been effective because the campaign recognizes that politics is local

and that it is important to make sure volunteers have an impact locally before influencing other

areas. This is to combat the problems that the Dean campaign faced – in that volunteers were

working in areas where they weren’t known and voters began to feel that Dean’s volunteers

weren’t one of them and as a result, they weren’t as receptive to the Dean campaign.

Since April 2007, the Obama campaign had placed a record breaking amount of online

advertisements, more than 70 million ads in January, to drive Internet users to his website in

order to ‘Help Elect Barack Obama President of the United States.’ The results have been visible

– Obama was able to capture a mathematical victory over Hillary Clinton and now stands to

receive the Democratic nomination. Obama was also able to raise over 28 million dollars online

through his website and Internet advertisements. Obama’s Internet support is at an

unprecedented level and easily beats out any other candidate’s support. Micah L. Sifry for

TechPresident wrote during the primaries: “If it were not for the Internet, and all the campaign-

and voter-generated activism that it has enabled, Hillary Clinton would already be the

Democratic Party's presumptive nominee, and Barack Obama or another reform-minded

candidate would be trailing badly,” (Sifry)

Along with regular Americans joining Obama’s website and becoming volunteers Obama

 24


has been able to gain endorsements from many popular bloggers or techies including: Dinah

Boyd, Larry Lessing, David Weinberger, Dave Winer, Ross Mayfield of Socialtext and Michael

Arrington. At the moment about two-thirds of those polled on OpenLeft and DailyKos, and about

60% at Swing State Project, think it's time to support Obama. Obama has even won the online

primary conducted by DailyKos and easily can be considered to be the frontrunner for the

Internet.

“Today Barack Obama earned the endorsement of MoveOn, one of the largest
grassroots membership organizations in the United States, after clobbering Hillary
Clinton by 40 percent in Internet balloting. Obama led the final tally 70.4% to
29.6%, clearing the supermajority required for the endorsement. MoveOn, which
has never endorsed a presidential candidate before, boasts that it has 1.7 million
members in Super Tuesday states. The group has over half a million members in
California alone – roughly one out of ten primary voters in Super Tuesday's
largest state.” (Melber)
Obama also commands a powerful presence on social networking websites. Obama’s

website includes a sidebar widget that lists all the social networking websites and groups that he

is listed on and as a result any user can join other Obama supporters on the social network of

their choice. These networks include: Facebook, MySpace, Youtube, Flickr, Digg, Twitter,

Eventful, LinkedIn, BlackPlanet, Faithbase, Eons, Glee, MiGente, MyBatanga, AsianAve and

the DNC’s PartyBuilder network. (BarackObama.com) The benefit to joining a social network is

that one can discover other supporters and create a network that otherwise may have never

existed. These networks allow the Obama campaign to find new supporters that conventional

methods may have failed to recruit. It also makes the campaign appear to be more accessible to

younger voters who are used to ‘old men’ running for office and failing to identify with young

adults.

Obama’s website is a beautiful example of how the Internet can fuel a campaign. It is

 25


visually stunning and features video, online tools, social networking options, user submitted

content and content all in a manner that doesn’t crowd the user. Obama’s blog has a sidebar that

features: HQ Highlights, upcoming events, photo submissions, an option to create a personal

fundraising page, BarackTV (a YouTube portal), donation links, voter registration links, a

welcome to Clinton supporters, a smear email watchdog group, a mobile text notification ad, a

social networking link hub, and a link to Obama’s social networking site -

my.BarackObama.com. Obama’s website also includes a tax calculator, a place to view ads and a

portal called Neighbor to Neighbor which opens with a video describing how the program works.

Obama has said, “This campaign is built on the belief that everyday Americans, when organized

and focused, can change their country. Now you can have an even greater impact on your

community. Start today by logging in to our new voter contact tool to find voters near you, or in

a critical battleground state, to reach out to. You can go door to door or make calls at any time

that’s convenient for you. Ordinary Americans reaching out to ordinary Americans is going to

make the real impact in this election, and we're counting on you to help” Neighbor to Neighbor

uses Obama’s own voter database and VoteBuilder to propagate calling lists and door to door

lists. Obama’s site also features a social networking community called my.BarackObama.com,

which allows access to the Obama Action Center and social network. This also allows for user

data collection for VoteBuilder. Unlike McCain’s campaign Obama’s website features videos

about how to use Obama’s tools and spread Obama’s message. Nearly every single page has

some video attached to it allowing for the user to feel ease using the online tools.

(BarackObama.com)

Obama’s campaign also actively uses e-mail and text messaging to keep volunteers and

supporters totally informed. If Obama was debating live, the campaign could send out messages

 26


saying ‘go watch him’. Obama also created campaign challenges to combat Clinton or McCain’s

fundraising success. When one candidate would raise a certain amount the Obama staff could

contact every volunteer and let them know that they needed to raise a certain amount to beat the

other candidates. Email and text messaging are instantaneous forms of communication and

incredibly effective in today’s mobile world. Moreover, these forms of communication are not

one way – an email or text message can be sent from a supporter to the campaign with an idea, a

picture or a report about an event. This capability makes every recipient feel that they can

contribute back to the campaign without a hassle. Back in Barack Obama’s Iowa headquarters,

young staff members can sit at computers, analyzing online local voter data and targeting

potential backers. They can send one e-mail to an undecided voter and zap a different message to

a firm supporter. Depending on the voter, they follow with Facebook reminders, telephone calls,

text messages and, most important, house visits. From fundraising to voter contact to social

networking to online organizing of offline events, the point is that the Obama campaign seems to

have integrated their supporter communications to a very effective degree.

The Obama’s campaign’s usage of the Internet and blogosphere has been a resounding

success. Without the Internet support, other well-known and more powerful opponents within

both his own party and the Republican Party would have certainly left Obama in the dust. Yet, it

was the Internet, the same Internet that brought down Howard Dean and kept the Paul campaign

afloat despite poor offline numbers, which nominated Obama. Obama possesses a web viewer

market share that is nearly twice that of Former First Lady Hillary Clinton and 40 times as

Senator John McCain. Obama’s website has seen an atmospheric rise in traffic since the New

Hampshire elections and he is supported by nearly every single major blog. (Pew Internet) The

Obama campaign cannot hope to be called the only campaign to use the Internet successfully

 27


rather it can be considered the first legitimate Internet and Blogosphere candidate and his

campaign model will become standard in many campaigns to come.

The 2008 Presidential Election was the first to fully realize the potential of the Internet

and the tools it can offer. Both parties had candidates that took advantage of the tools the Internet

offers and used them to increase fundraising and branding opportunities. Political fans took the

Internet to show their support and voice their opinions. Tools such as Facebook and Twitter

allowed the average user to become part of a campaign and campaigns used tools like

VoterVault and VoteBuilder to target voters and create their own social networking sites within

their campaign. Online tools have also become part of the media’s usage of covering politics and

the gap that formally divided politicians and the people is slowly closing. The future of politics

includes Internet campaigning and involving social aspects into the campaign. The Obama

campaign showed that involving supporters in the campaign is a great way to increase turnout,

support and fundraising. The 2012 elections will likely involve more Internet tools and likely

new ones that have not been created. It is vital to all to utilize and realize the potential of all

political tools and utilize them in campaigning and general politics. The 2008 elections are likely

the start of WebGovernment 2.0 and its vital that both parties and all politicians recognize the

benefits and pitfalls of the Internet.

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