With more than 55 percent of Americans now using the Internet regularly, and nearly 70 percent with ready access, there is little question that your campaign must have a comprehensive strategy for harnessing this powerful medium(1). The Internet can host everything from a face-to-face conversation to a global television broadcast, and do it on the cheap. It also does a few things better than any other medium, including reaching people while they are at work and adjusting fund-raising appeals and field organization instructions for maximum effect. Those of you who use the Internet regularly already appreciate its communicative versatility, workplace penetration, and optimization powers. Those of you who don't should acknowledge that nearly two hundred million U.S. users cannot be wrong or ignored as potential supporters.
The authors of this memo have been employed in online politics since 1994, as paid observer and practitioner, respectively(2). In the pages that follow, we describe what we have seen in online politics, and what we think it suggests for Net campaigning in the race for the 2004 Democratic presidential nomination. Some of our comments apply to all candidates; some depend on whether the candidate is an underdog or überdog (front-runner).
The fundamental lesson we offer is that getting the political utmost out of the Internet requires that strategy dictate the use of the technology. Computers can automate many processes, but do not be seduced (or intimidated) by Nomination 1.0 political software packages. Loading a suite of online campaigning tools onto your hard drive will empower you to do a great many things. But which you should do, and when? The help icon on your screen won.t answer those recurring questions. Neither will a customer support line. You need a campaign plan predicated on a realistic assessment of your political strengths and weaknesses and a shrewd reading of the nomination calendar.
As you prepare your overall campaign strategy for winning the nomination, five tasks will stand out. We list them here together with the old media. channels traditionally relied upon to accomplish them:
1 For the latest data on Internet usage, see .The Big Picture. section at www.cyberatlas.com , the annual reports produced by UCLA at www.ccp.ucla.edu , and the periodic reports at www.pewinternet.org .
2 The authors would like to thank Douglas Bailey, Mark Halperin, Michael McCurry, Dan Schnur, and Greg Simon for speaking with us at length about this subject.
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