The Use of the Internet and New Media in Presidential Campaigns

Christopher M. Mascaro The Johns Hopkins University

Mascaro The Use of the Internet and New Media in Presidential Campaigns Presidential candidates have employed state of the art communications technology to mobilize individuals and disseminate information dating all the way back to the first elections.


The elections of the Internet age are no different. Candidates are using the Internet in innovative ways to appeal to voters and raise money. Many of these innovative techniques have permitted lesser-known candidates to become recognized on the national political scene and challenge the political status quo. The most prominent examples of the use of innovative technology in recent Presidential elections include Howard Dean in 2004 along with Ron Paul and Barack Obama in 2008. Howard Dean can be considered one of the first candidates to use the Internet successfully on a national scale to build a personal brand. Ron Paul’s bid for the 2008 Republican nomination relied on the Internet, because he lacked support among the Republican base. Barack Obama would have had a near impossible chance at beating Hillary Clinton for the Democratic nomination had it not been for the existence of the Internet and his innovative new media strategy1. The use of the Internet and new technology has allowed Presidential candidates to emerge onto the national political scene and become competitive in Presidential primaries and general elections. The paper will begin with a brief discussion of political candidates and mobilization focusing on the various manners in which candidates mobilize support. Second, a history of the temporal use of new technologies in Presidential campaigns, starting with print media, through the development of radio and TV all the way up to the Internet will be presented. Next, a brief


In the paper, the terms new media and participatory media relate to the use of blogs, social networks and other Internet based media that depends on user generated content as opposed to traditional media outlets where the communication is one-way.

Mascaro history of the use of Internet in political campaigns will be presented. From there, the paper will explore the Presidential campaigns of 2004 and 2008 and how Howard Dean, Ron Paul and Barack Obama used the Internet. Finally, Barack Obama’s election to the White House will be discussed with a focus on how he was more effective than Paul and Dean and what this could mean for the Obama administration2. Mobilizing Support over the Years The need for political candidates to mobilize support is fundamental to any successful


election attempt. The manner in which candidates mobilize their supporters and attempt to garner more support is the subject of widespread academic research. Even though candidates choose to mobilize supporters in different ways the basics of mobilization are all the same. These basic principles include candidates going out on the campaign trail to garner name recognition, delivering their message to the constituents and establishing their stances on policy issues. The different ways that candidates mobilize support leads to success or failure in the election. The fact that voting in the United States is a two-stage process often times makes mobilization even more difficult. The electorate must effectively go to the polls twice, once to register and then again to vote. One of the issues with registration, especially for new voters is that it comes during a time when the excitement of the election may not be present (Jackson 1996). In many states, voters must be registered 30 days before election day and at that time people are then locked into being able or unable to vote on election day3. Therefore, it is


Volumes could be written on how Obama used new media to defeat Hillary Clinton and John McCain, but the focus of this paper will be on how Obama was successful relative to prior individuals that used new media and new technology of the Internet as a large part of their campaign. 3 Though it is important to mention that some states are moving away from this registration model and allowing same day registration and voting, it is not widespread enough to warrant any general study of the effects of it on a national scale.

Mascaro important for politicians to try to mobilize support well before election day. The long Democratic primary season of 2008 offered a unique set of circumstances that found many individuals registering for their state primaries and in turn being registered for the November election generating significant turnout. One of the biggest questions facing those studying mobilization and voter turnout is determining who gets mobilized or contacted by the political campaigns. Goldstein and Ridout argue that those individuals most likely to be contacted by traditional mobilization techniques


such as phone calls or direct mail tend to be those that have voted in the past or are already most likely to vote (2002). Holbrook and McClurg similarly argue that “partisans” or those strongly affiliated to a party are the ones most likely to be exposed to campaign information and mobilization attempts (2005). These strategies may not be the most effective. A successful campaign is one that is able to translate campaign exposure into votes on Election Day, but many times these individuals are ones that would have voted with the party anyway. Therefore, very few new voters are being exposed to campaign information and in turn are forced to seek information out for themselves. These new voters are the ones that may not be included in traditional mobilization techniques and often times are the ones that need the information or encouragement to get out to the polls. Overall, traditional mobilization techniques are essentially a waste of money on the scale that they are carried out, because they are targeting those with the least need for the information. This problem has now been solved as new technology makes information dissemination to a widespread audience easier and cheaper. Technology that is able to reach a large amount of people at once has been used for years in Presidential Elections and the pioneers of using new technology throughout the years have been able to turn mobilization into success.

Mascaro “Technology” through the Years The use of new technology in Presidential elections goes back centuries. The efficiency


of the printing press helped Andrew Jackson form and organize the Democratic Party leading up to the Presidential election of 1828. Jackson then used the postal service to distribute fliers detailing his biographical information painting him as a hero in the war of 1812. After his election, he turned the Postmaster general position into a patronage position and greatly expanded the reach of the Post Office understanding how important it was for communication (Ambinder 2008). Abraham Lincoln also benefited from new technology of the day when transcripts of his debates with Douglas were reprinted in newspapers that had just become nationally distributed. The use of the print media helped Lincoln, a physically unattractive individual, gain national celebrity status (Ambinder 2008). Franklin Delano Roosevelt used his radio “fireside chats” to appeal directly to the American people and help them form a connection with him. These “chats” helped FDR garner more support from the American people for the New Deal (Ambinder 2008). In the middle of the 20th century Estes Kefauver used television to boost his political prospects and become a household name. In 1950, sensing the growing organized crime problem facing the United States, the Senate established the Special Committee to Investigate Organized Crime in Interstate Commerce, choosing Freshmen Democratic Senator Kefauver from Tennessee to serve as its chair. The committee traveled to 14 cities in 15 months, broadcasting the proceedings on television during a time when Americans were first buying them. This enabled Kefauver to gain name recognition, boosting him to national prominence and allowing him a bid for the 1952 nomination (United States Senate 1950).

Mascaro The popularity of Senator Kefauver allowed him to defeat President Harry S. Truman in the New Hampshire primary. Kefauver then went on to win 14 of the 17 primaries, but failed to win the Democratic nomination, because the nomination in 1952 was mostly decided by the outcomes of state conventions not primaries, limiting the general public’s influence (Brown


1998). The use of television by Kefauver to broadcast the hearings made him a household name, turning an unknown freshmen Senator into a national figure. Though much of his momentum may have been driven by the TV exposure, this case is analogous to what is happening with the Internet today. The Internet in Elections The first major use of the Internet in elections and campaigns began in 1996, when the Internet first became available to the masses. In 1996, most candidate websites were merely a virtual campaign brochure with basic information about the candidate and limited information about their stances on policy issues (Dulio et al. 1999). It was not until the 1998 election cycle that candidates started to realize the power of the Internet and began to develop strategies to succeed online. In 1998, more than two-thirds of candidates for Congressional seats had websites. Of these websites, more than 70 percent of the candidates used the websites to perform some sort of fundraising activity. These activities ranged from providing visitors with information on how to donate to allowing them to make credit card donations on the website (Dulio et al. 1999). The year of 1998 marked the emergence of the Internet to reach out to Internet users. In 1998, Jesse Ventura used e-mail to attract supporters for his bid for the Minnesota Governor seat (Napoli 2003). The ability for individuals to donate online did not necessarily illustrate a quick shift to online donations, but it was a step in the right direction.

Mascaro In the 1998 race for the California Senate Seat, less than 1 percent of all campaign donations were made online (Dulio et al. 1999). This figure is very limited in contrast to the hundreds of millions of dollars being raised online today, but illustrated the future of campaigning on the Internet. Even though most candidates in major elections had a website in


1998, the benefits of having an online presence were not realized because Internet access was not as ubiquitous as today. As Internet access entered more homes in the early 21st century, candidates realized the need to develop a more attractive web presence. The elections of 2000 were the first major election cycle where the Internet played a significant role. In 2000, Republican presidential primary candidate John McCain raised more than $5 million online (Napoli 2003). The wide proliferation of the Internet meant that people were turning to the Internet for political information. During the 1998 and 2000 election seasons a question was posed to potential voters asking them what they used as their primary media source for election information. From 1998 to 2000, the amount of respondents indicating that they used newspapers as their primary source dropped by 14 percent while the number claiming they used the Internet increased by about the same percentage (Lupia 2003). This statistic made it clear that there was a shift to the Internet for political information. This phenomenon would be evident in the 2008 election as preliminary reports indicated that 46 percent of Americans used the Internet to get election news during the primary season (Smith and Rainie 2008). The use of the Internet in Presidential campaigns was to be expected in the 2004 elections, but the Internet had changed significantly since the previous election. This called for a shift in strategy from campaigns. Prior campaigns had focused on the use of static web pages, the equivalent of advertising billboards and small virtual “tip jars” for fundraising. From 2000-2004,

Mascaro the Internet began its transformation from static content to dynamic content and the emergence of new or participatory media. Howard Dean – The Pioneer Howard Dean is one of the first candidates to harness the power of this emerging


technology, as is evident by his use of the Internet for fundraising and the website to mobilize voters. In January 2003, Howard Dean had less than $200,000 in the bank and only seven staff members (Anderson 2004). Up to that point, Dean’s political career had been in Vermont state politics including serving a Governor for nearly a decade. The moment that catapulted Dean onto the national scene was a speech he gave at the California Democratic National Convention in 2003. In this speech, Dean questioned and challenged the Democratic Party for its current state (Dean 2003). This speech helped him find favor with grassroots organizations and other activists that shared his views; the very individuals that would be his base. After the speech, Dean’s support grew and he became the apparent front-runner through most of the pre-primary season until an unexpected loss in the 2004 Iowa caucus. The fact that Dean was the apparent front-runner and then lost the first primary is what is most notable. How could Dean go from being the front-runner to losing? Dean did not commit any serious blunders to that point; the answer is in how Dean actually mobilized his support4. Howard Dean became a national figure in American politics, because of the use of the website and blogging. Dean was successful in utilizing to help mobilize voters and translate the mobilization into momentum and fundraising. The purpose of the website is to allow groups of people with similar interests find each other and

The “Dean Scream” is outside the scope of the paper, because it happened as a result of his loss in Iowa and not in the time leading up to it.



then “meetup” offline. Once they “meetup” the individuals then talk about the interest or partake in some activity. Dean included a link on his website to and encouraged people to join and find local groups to attend (Sosnik 2006, 164). Along with this link on the website, Dean maintained a blog where 26 percent of the postings talked about fundraising and appealing to the public to donate to his campaign (Williams et al. 2005, 181). In June 2003, 7 months before the first primary contest, Howard Dean had 259 Dean for President Meetups occurring in 239 cities in the US (Sosnik 2006, 164). People would go to, sign up for a local meetup with their email address, and then attend the meeting. After they attended the meetup many would donate in person or online. Over the summer and into the winter, Dean developed his grassroots base by using and converting the numbers that were signing up for the site into fundraising. One of the keys to Dean’s strategy was the fact that he was able to maintain constant communication with supporters by email and through, though he was not able to reach past his core supporters. By the time Dean formally ended his campaign in late February 2004, he had amassed 640,937 supporters on, with estimates of about 75,000 actually attending one of the meetups. Starting with only $200,000 in the bank, Dean managed to raise $40 million in one year, $30 million of which was donated online. This was due in large part to his online prowess and ability to get individuals to “meetup” 5(Dean nets $15 million). The reason that Howard Dean failed is complex. For one, Dean turned out to be a weak candidate, but that would have come out early in the process, right? Not necessarily. Reasons for the failure will be given in later sections, but it comes down to the artificial momentum that Dean was able to generate by using new media sites like He never was a strong candidate because he did not have

It is important to note that Howard Dean did have a social networking portion of his website called DeanLink, but very little success came of it, so it is left out of the paper.



widespread appeal, but the use of social media helped him appear as though he did, even though he was only mobilizing his core supporters. The one thing that was apparent was that Dean’s strategy would be built upon in the 2008 Presidential election. Ron Paul – Building on Dean’s Success The 2008 election saw the emergence of Ron Paul and Barack Obama. Ron Paul is an interesting candidate by many accounts. He had been the Libertarian candidate for President in 1988 garnering less than .5 percent of the national vote (Spiegal 2007). Paul was eventually elected to represent the 14th District of Texas in the House of Representatives for the term starting in 1997. Similar to Dean, Paul had little national mainstream exposure, but knew that the Internet was going to be the best avenue for exposure, mobilization, and fundraising. In March 2007, Paul formally declared his bid for the GOP nomination on C-SPAN (CSPAN). One of the attractions to Paul was his conservative platform that called for a return to the gold standard, abolition of the I.R.S., a literal view of the constitution and smaller government (Seelye and Wayne 2007). These non-traditional beliefs helped him gain appeal among the mass public and the younger progressive demographic. With this message and understanding of where his support would come from, Ron Paul took to the Internet. As a contrast to Dean, Ron Paul had many more avenues for dissemination of information on the Internet. Like Dean, Paul used with well over 1,000 groups that supported him (Seelye and Wayne 2007). Paul also had a blog updated by staffers that would give an update on various campaign happenings. At one point in 2007, “Ron Paul” was the most searched for term on the blog indexing website (Wilson 2007). This helps illustrate the success of Ron Paul harnessing the Internet to get his name out in an attempt to build support.

Mascaro Paul used the video sharing website to release campaign information and


videos promoting him because he did not have the same access to the media that other candidates had early in the electoral process. Paul was actually the only GOP primary candidate excluded from a FOXNews debate, but because of his access to new medium he was still able to get his message out (Top of the Ticket Blog). The YouTube channel, “RonPaul2008dotcom” had over 50,000 subscribers and had well over 7 million views of the videos on the channel. The content of these videos ranged from traditional campaign ads to an interview with James Kotecki in a dorm room (Hoffman 2008). Ron Paul also harnessed the power of new media such as social networks, especially Facebook and MySpace. On Facebook, Paul had amassed over 100,000 supporters and thousands of posts on his wall by the time he ended his campaign in June 2008. An illustration of the success of his online strategy is evident in the fact that Ron Paul was actually chosen as a winner along with Barack Obama in a mock “MySpace” primary in January 2008 (McCarthy 2008). These social networks allowed Ron Paul to connect with users offering them a place to congregate and share messages online and connect with supporters by posting information and pictures from the campaign trail. The success of Paul’s use of the Internet to fundraise and mobilize support did not translate into real votes for the candidate, but he was able to raise a large sum of money. On November 5, 2007, the “Ron Paul Money Bomb” campaign netted Paul $4.2 million in 24 hours (Hoffman 2008). The reasons for Paul’s failure in the actual campaign will be analyzed in later sections in comparison to Dean and Obama, but it is now important to look at a successful campaign that used the Internet heavily.

Mascaro Barack Obama and the 2008 Election


Barack Obama gained national attention after his 2004 Democratic National Convention speech. Being a relative newcomer to the national political landscape when the 2008 Presidential primary season got underway, Obama realized that he would need to be innovative to mobilize support. Part of this innovation was realizing the need to target a different set of fundraisers, because his competition for the Democratic nomination was from the entrenched Democratic elite who would lock down traditional fundraising mechanisms. Early in his Presidential campaign Obama asked Mark Gorenberg to join his national finance committee, to help him target the Silicon Valley market – the home of emerging technology. Mark Gorenberg was a Silicon Valley veteran who had done fundraising for John Kerry in 2004 and therefore had political experience (Green 2008). Though Gorenberg was using a new medium to raise money and get information out, he was dealing with antiquated political entities. Until 2004, the Internet had mostly been used by candidates to distribute the typical campaign brochure. That changed in 2008, giving Gorenberg a great opportunity (Green 2008). When Gorenberg joined Obama’s national finance committee, “he was pleased to discover an institutional culture eager to embrace new ideas about building user-generated networks (Green 2008).” This shift in culture and Obama’s status as a relative long shot early on in the campaign meant that the campaign had little to lose. Therefore, the campaign had the ability for the campaign to utilize innovative techniques. By using the Internet, the Obama campaign was able to reach a larger audience, many of which had not participated in the political fundraising process in the past (Green 2008). These individuals, like those Paul and Dean were appealing to, were a virtually untapped resource.

Mascaro Green also notes that the campaign culture made the Obama campaign a natural fit for


Mark Spinner, a media executive and entrepreneur. Mark Spinner had only been active in politics a short time, but after going to an Obama fundraiser in February 2006 he got involved. Following the fundraiser, Spinner reached out to his “friends” on the social networking sites LinkedIN, Facebook and MySpace, looking for individuals that would be interested in donating money to the campaign (Green 2008). In order to augment the already existing social networks to help raise money and mobilize support for Obama, Spinner created an online affinity group called “Entrepreneurs for Obama.” In May 2006, Obama appeared by videoconference to this group (Green 2008). This affinity group was the precursor to what became the foundation of Obama’s new media success and foundation of his online momentum, the website allowed users to join and take an active role in the campaign. At the heart of the website was a social network where individuals could link up with other supporters and share ideas. A user can also create groups and attract other individuals to support Obama. The website also allowed individuals to get a list of phone numbers to call to help enlist support for Obama (Green 2008). The website was an integral part of Obama’s success because it allowed people to take a very active or passive role, a choice that had been lacking in other campaigns6. On, it was possible to donate money or establish an individual website to help solicit money from others to support Obama. These powerful tools allowed Obama to reach out to individuals with small amounts of money that wanted to play a part in


The website still does exist, but since the election victory in November no longer focuses on campaigning and instead focuses on disseminating information and helps facilitate discussion among supporters.



politics, but could not attend the traditional $2,000 per plate dinner. This model allowed Obama to raise over $500 million online throughout his campaign, with 65 percent of the $150 million raised in September 2008 coming from online donations. Overall, 3 million donors made over 6.5 million donations, 6 million of which were in increments of less than $100 (Vargas 2008). The prior online fundraising record for a campaign was $27 million by Howard Dean in 2004, a record that Obama easily surpassed. (Green 2008). In the 2008 Democratic primary season, only 26 percent of the donations to Hillary Clinton’s campaign were under $200, yet she still managed to raise millions and compete well against Obama (Green 2008). Therefore, based on the statistics, Hillary was more reliant on the traditional donor base that Obama had trouble tapping into initially, a problem Obama countered by appealing to the younger and more technologically savvy demographic. These statistics illustrate the vastly different campaigns that the two major Democratic candidates ran in the primary7. Even though Barack Obama had his own official social network, individuals also took the initiative to help stand up sites on mainstream social networks to help support him. In early 2007, on the day that Obama announced his presidential exploratory committee, Farouk Olu Aregbe started a group on Facebook group, “One Million Strong for Barack.” In less than a week, the group had 10,000 members and within a month it had over 278,000 members (Vargas 2007). As of early June 2008, the group had amassed over 570,000 members and was one of the most popular groups on Facebook. It is also important to note that Barack Obama’s own


Although the campaign of Clinton is outside the scope of this paper it is important to note her relative inability to successfully raise money and mobilize support relative to Obama online to show Obama’s true innovative approach in a similar timeframe.

Mascaro Facebook page had over 3 million supporters immediately following his election victory, compared to just over one million supporters from mid-June. The Obama campaign also used, a micro-blogging, social network to keep supporters current with what the campaign was doing. The purpose of is to answer


the question, “What are you doing?” so that friends (followers in twitter parlance) can keep up to date with the activities of the twitterer. Obama’s campaign updated his twitter page many times daily detailing where Obama was and what he was doing. Obama also announced his VicePresident selection of Joe Biden via Twitter and mobile text message before releasing the information to the press (Stelter 2008). In late October 2008, right before the election, Barack Obama was the number one “twitterer” on the Internet with over 100,000 followers8. No other politician was within any measurable distance of Obama ( In addition to the use of Twitter, the Obama campaign also developed an application for the iPhone to help users of the device take a more active role in the campaign. The iPhone application used an individual’s location to help direct them toward campaign events in the area and other ways to get involved. The application also helped facilitate calling friends from the individual’s phone book based on their location and delivered media and news updates of the campaign directly to the phone. All of these features were very basic, but when combined they allowed individuals to feel more connected to the campaign. The use of new media by Obama contributed greatly to his general election win in November 2008. Obama went from being a relatively unknown national political figure before his 2004 DNC speech to President in 4 years. While it can be argued that the use of new media by Obama was integral to his election and without it he would not have been as successful, it is

This statistic has grown to well over 250,000 since October 2008. President Obama last updated his Twitter account the day before inauguration.

Mascaro also important to analyze the issues that Obama promoted. Obama had a relatively mainstream Democratic stance on many issues, which appealed to the younger, more technically savvy voters. The Implications of Campaigning on the Internet Obama is arguably the first Presidential candidate with an agenda dealing with technological issues; the very issues many of his supporters cared about. Obama’s technology


platform called for a more open government by using the Internet for information dissemination and the protection of the openness of the Internet and maintaining “net neutrality9” (Barack Obama Campaign Website). These two objectives helped him appeal to his base. Obama is living up to his objectives by disseminating his weekly address via YouTube and as a Podcast in iTunes and embedding these videos on the website and (Farber 2008). As of November 24, 2008, Obama’s first address had been viewed over 900,000 times on YouTube. So the question still stands, why was Obama so successful whereas Paul and Dean were not? The answer cannot solely be found in the quality of the candidates and their positions on issues, though those reasons are significant. It is clear that Obama was successful in using the new media to help bolster himself as a candidate and translate this attention into real votes. Both Dean and Paul were weak candidates that had artificially been inflated because their access to new media made them able to rally support though they were inherently weaker than Obama. Their differing strategies lead to the their success or failure and offered lessons learned for future campaigns.


Net Neutrality is the concept that a user will be able to use the Internet for whatever lawful purpose they wish independent of the Internet service provider (ISP) they choose. Some ISP’s have experimented with limiting the use of some websites or services and this is exactly what Obama is trying to limit.

Mascaro Howard Dean, being the bellwether of using emerging new media such as social


networks, was partially the victim of being an early adopter. Dean was also a flawed candidate that was able to garner artificial momentum because of his understanding of the new medium. After his speech at the California State Democratic Convention in 2003, Howard Dean catapulted onto the national scene, because he had a message and a medium to discuss it in. Unlike candidates in the past, Dean had access to tools that could be utilized on a very a limited budget to garner support and did not depend on traditional media or the national party to fully recognize him. Therefore, Dean was able to appeal to the masses and, by mobilizing the individuals online to have them meet offline, he began to form geographically disparate groups that would help him gain national momentum. His use of the online medium to mobilize helped him reach beyond what he typically would be able to reach, but he was still dealing with a very small amount of individuals that participated in these types of sites. As Dean garnered more followers, national news outlets recognized this momentum and Dean began receiving traditional media attention, which further contributed to his momentum. Though unsuccessful in his bid for the nomination, the greatest success of Dean’s campaign was illustrating that the Internet could be an effective campaign tool. Unlike Dean, Ron Paul used the Internet to organize individuals online with the focus of having them meet up online and offline. Paul, like Dean, may not have been the most popular candidate, but he helped generate his own excitement by using the Internet as a rallying force to generate a greater mass-market appeal and more campaign contributions. Paul used all of the new media outlets in an effective manner to get time on traditional media outlets, very similar to



Dean. Paul and his supporters used this exposure to raise large amounts of money in single day fundraisers helping to further add to his momentum. Paul’s Internet strategy was the next logical step from Dean’s because the technology had matured and he had some unique vision for how to harness that technology. The individuals that Paul was appealing to, happened to be in the younger demographic and had more experience with the new, participatory media that Paul was using. These actions helped Paul better appeal to his supporters, but in the end he did not translate the support into votes as evidenced by the number of votes that he received. The reasons for Paul’s lack of success were still similar to Dean’s. Paul and Dean did not have a coordinated strategy to mobilize voters. They were good at developing momentum, but this momentum had no focal point for supporters to come back to. Therefore, the momentum was somewhat artificial in that the momentum did not translate into real votes and only existed because of their use of new media. Overall, Paul’s message was too targeted to the “partisans” as described by Holbrook and McClurg (2005). Obama ran a very successful campaign, as evidenced by his winning of the Democratic nomination and then the Presidency. What set Obama apart from the failures of Dean and Paul? One differentiating factor was that Obama was a stronger candidate than Paul or Dean. Also, Obama had a lot of competition from the Democratic elite, most specifically Hillary Clinton, who had a solid fundraising and support base, and therefore Obama had to innovate. What Obama did differently from the others in the past and his opponents in the primaries was reach out using new social media and then draw his supporters back to a central focal point,

Mascaro The fact that Obama was using new technology such as social networks and mobilizing


individuals during the primary season helped him throughout the primaries and into the general election. The two-step registration process that is unique to the United States was somewhat overcome, because of the very exciting primary season (Jackson 1996). Using these new tools and appealing to a younger base allowed Obama to defeat Hillary Clinton in the primary nomination process and go on to win the election in November. Obama’s key demographic was younger and technologically savvy, but not necessarily politically savvy. These individuals wanted some sort of change and Obama gave them a place to make themselves feel relevant. By allowing such an array of opportunities on his website and by constantly updating the social media sites that he and his staff controlled, his supporters felt like they actually mattered in the campaign. This excitement and support led to one of the highest election turnouts in 40 years, with 61.7 of the total voting-eligible population (VEP) voting (George Mason 2009)10. On the other hand, Dean and Paul’s supporters were able to feel like they mattered, but quickly realized that there was no central place for them to focus their efforts on and this caused a loss in momentum. This sense of involvement that Obama’s campaign generated made individuals feel as though they should contribute money or come out to a rally. A Pew Research Center Study conducted after the election in November 2008 illustrated interesting statistics about voters in the 2008 election. Sixty-six percent of those under the age of 30 voted for Barack Obama, which is a 13 percent disparity with the overall vote percentage garnered by Barack Obama of 53 percent. Twenty-eight percent of young voters in battleground states attended a campaign event. This


The VEP is different from the Voting-Age Population (VAP), which is based on Census data and those old enough to vote. The VEP takes into account those ineligible to vote, which often times yields to higher percentages than those statistics using the VAP.



statistic alone helps illustrate the success of the Obama’s campaign strategy to widely broadcast their message and invite people to take part online and offline. In addition to those who attended campaign events in the battleground states, 25 percent of those voters in the 18-29 demographic claimed that someone from the Obama campaign contacted them about coming out to vote, a figure that reached well over 50 percent in battleground states such as Pennsylvania and Nevada. This is in stark contrast to the 13 percent of those in the 18-29 demographic that reported being contacted by the McCain campaign (Keeter, Horowitz and Tyson 2008). The statistics of those that were mobilized to vote and participate in campaign events are very convincing. The fact that Obama used new technologies such as social networks and blogs allowed him to reach out and mobilize individuals that he was then able to draw back to a central point -- his own social networking site. This allowed the campaign to maintain contact with the supporters that joined the Obama networks on the official social network or on similar pages on Facebook or other social networks. This contact then created a positive feedback loop for support and mobilization. These activities by the Obama campaign were in sharp contrast to the disparate, and at times chaotic, online activities of Paul and Dean that never had a focal point and never attempted to reach out to those outside of the their core supporters. Conclusion – Looking to the Future Now that Barack Obama is the President, a lot of possibilities exist for new media and politics. Obama has already shown that he will keep to his promise of using the Internet to make government more transparent. Obama is entering the White House with a network of millions of supporters and an instant way to connect with them independent of the traditional news outlets. This will allow him to control the message he is disseminating and be direct with the citizens of



the United States. With the comfortable Democratic majority in Congress and this control of the media, Barack Obama should be able to make a real difference early in his Presidency. Technology is constantly evolving and changing the landscape of how people communicate. This technology can be used to help strong candidates become stronger or to allow relatively weak candidates to gain artificial momentum making them seem like better candidates than they are. The key to using the disparate types of social media is to reach out and draw supporters in, while continuing to reach out to the different forms of social media to find more supporters and mobilize them to come out to vote. What really set Obama apart was that he was able to circumvent the traditional mobilization cycle of only appealing to those that voted in the past or strong partisans and in turn brought out many new voters or those that had not voted in awhile as evidenced by the high turnout. The evolution of communications in politics will continue as new technology emerges and the candidates become more comfortable with it. The fact that Obama has used the Internet in such a successful manner raises the bar for future candidates to find innovative ways to fundraise and mobilize voters online. A lot of these techniques will be dictated by the technology available, but it is possible that some of this technology may evolve as a result of the use of the Internet in the political sphere.

Mascaro Reference List


_________________. 2004. Dean nets $15 million in fourth quarter., January 2, l. Ambinder, Marc. 2008. HisSpace. The Atlantic, June 2008. Anderson, Kevin. 2004. Internet insurgent Howard Dean. BBC News Online, January 14, Barack Obama Campaign Website. Change We Can Believe In | Technology. Barack Obama. Brown, Theodore. 1998. Carey Estes Kefauver. Tennessee Encyclopedia of History and Culture. C-SPAN. March 21, 2007. Ron Paul Announces Candidacy Live. Dean, Howard. 2003. Address to California State Democratic Convention. Dulio, David A., Goff, Donald L. and Thurber, James A. 1999. Untangled Web: Internet Use during the 1998 Election. PS: Political Science and Politics 32.1: 53-59. Farber, Dan. 2008. Obama appoints YouTube (Google) as secretary of video. Outside the Lines Blog. George Mason University. United States Elections Project: 2008 General Election Turnout Rates. January 29, 2009. Goldstein, Kenneth M. and Ridout, Travis N. 2002. The Politics of Participation: Mobilization and Turnout over Time. Political Behavior. 24.1 : 3-29. Green, Joshua. 2008. The Amazing Money Machine. The Atlantic, June 2008. Hoffman, Thomas. 2008. The Geekiest Candidate. Computerworld, January 7. Holbrook Thomas M. and McClurg, Scott D. 2005. The Mobilization of Core Supporters: Campaigns, Turnout and Electoral Composition in United States Presidential Elections. American Journal of Political Science. 49.4: 689-703. Jackson, Robert A. 1996. A Reassessment of Voter Mobilization. Political Research Quarterly. 49.2: 331-349.



Keeter, Scott, Horowitz, Juliana, and Tyson, Alec. Young Voters in the 2008 Election. Pew Research Center. Lupia, Arthur, and Baird, Zoe. 2003. Can Web Sites Change Citizens? Implications of the Web White and Blue 2000. PS: Political Science and Politics 36.1: 77-82. McCarthy, Caroline. 2008. Surprise! Barack Obama, Ron Paul win MySpace ‘primaries’. The Social Blog, January 3, Napoli, Lisa. 2003. Like Online Dating, With a Political Spin. New York Times Online, March 13, 9659C8B63#. Seelye, Katharine Q. and Wayne, Leslie. 2007. The Web Takes Ron Paul for a Ride. New York Times Online, November 11, Smith, Aaron and Rainie, Lee. The Internet and the 2008 Election. Pew Internet & American Life Project. June 15, 2008. Sosnik, Douglas B., Dowd, Matthew J., and Fournier, Ron. 2006. Applebees’s America. Simon & Schuster Paperbacks. Spiegal, Brendan. 2007. Ron Paul: How a Fringe Politician Took Over the Web. Wired Online, June 2006. Stelter, Brian. 2008. Hearts A-Twitter Over Obama V.P. Text. The Caucus Blog. Top of the Ticket Blog. Ron Paul, muffled by Fox, wows Jay Leno. Los Angeles Times Online. United States Senate Historical Minutes. 1950. Kefauver Crime Committee Launched. hed.htm. Vargas, Jose Antonio. 2007. Young Voters Find Voice on Facebook. Washington Post, February 17, A01, National Edition. Vargas, Jose Antonio. 2008. Obama Raised Half a Billion Online. Washington Post Online, November 20,

Mascaro Williams, Andrew Paul, Trammell, Kaye D., Postelnicu, Monica, Landreville, Kristen D. and Martin, Justin D. 2005. Blogging and Hyperlinking: use of the Web to enhance viability during the 2004 US campaign. Journalism Studies 6.2: 177-186. Wilson, Chris. 2007. Ron Paul’s Online Rise. US News & World Report Online, May 9,


Sign up to vote on this title
UsefulNot useful