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Daily Digest: Does Obama Need the Netroots?

BY Joshua Levy | Monday, March 3 2008

The Web on the Candidates

  • OpenLeft’s Matt Stoller can’t seem to stay interested in the Democratic primary because he says he’s watched “this disconnect between the internet space I’ve worked on for four years and reality itself get worse.” The problem is, while the Stoller and other netroots activists are pushing a specifically progressive ideology, Barack Obama’s taken a “post-partisan,” non-ideological approach to his campaign. So while the netroots has been busy building a movement, Stoller seems to argue, Obama’s been busy being a politician and ignoring the grassroots. But then there’s that small matter of Obama’s million donors… Isn't it possible that the movement being built by the netroots built pales in comparison to the broad coalition brought together by Obama?

  • Maybe the netroots haven’t been an essential part of Obama’s campaign because he doesn’t need them; he’s used the web to generate a much louder grassroots response than progressive activists can muster. A French advertising exec — no progressive activist, but still an astute observer — argues that Obama is faring better than Hillary Clinton because he is “a digital candidate while she is the analog candidate.” While Rishad Tobaccowala (love that name) isn’t a campaigner, he’s an astute observer of online politics. “A lot of the Obama campaign messages are not their own but they point to and highlight stuff created by others. It’s created by the crowds,” he told Fortune.

  • The dueling “red telephone” TV ads coming from the Clinton and Obama campaigns — complete with an avuncular narrator asking us to be scared, or to feel secure, or something — are ripe for parody. Thankfully, Andy Cobb comes to the rescue. In another great video, he manages to criticize both the campaigns’ need to “scare you craptastic” and the narrators who deliver the message. (Hat tip, Ben Smith)

  • Speaking of that “3am moment,” on a recent conference call with the Clinton campaign, Slate’s John Dickerson asked for an example of when Hillary has been “tested by crisis.” After a six seconds of silence, a Clinton chief strategist Mark Penn finally attempted a response. Thanks to Clinton campaign’s willingness to release mp3’s of their conference calls, YouTuber mingusx902 was able to sync the recording with a video of a ticking clock showing just how long those seconds were.

  • A new aggregation site called VOT3R is the latest in a string of filter sites — Memeorandum is still our favorite — attempting to make our online reading faster and easier. As the About page says, “VOT3R aggregates, reads, organizes and publishes the best news, editorial and blog content related to motorcycles from hundreds of sources across the web.” Wha? Motorcycles? Might want to tweak that bio, folks.

  • Upset that Mike Bloomberg decided not to run for president? With the help of the fake Mike Bloomberg ‘09 site, you can fantasize about what could have been. Created by New York-based techie Rich Hecker, the site obsesses about Bloomberg’s wealth, listing a stream of “facts” like “Mike once dropped so much money in a beggar’s cup that the beggar dislocated his shoulder” that would make Chuck Norris proud. We're guessing Hecker is just fine with Bloomie’s decision.

The Candidates on the Web

  • In an attempt to humanize those individuals, otherwise known as superdelegates, who wield outsize power in the primaries, Off The Bus has put together profiles of more than 200 of them. Marc Cooper describes the project and gives a taste of what OTB’s volunteer team has uncovered. Yet another very cool and helpful project from OTB.

In Case You Missed It…

Regardless of how much much money Barack Obama will have raised in Februrary ($60 million? $70 million?), Micah Sifry thinks what’s more important is that he has more individual contributors than the entire large donor pool to federal campaigns and parties in 2000, and nearly as many as in 2004. Already.

Senator Barack Obama wants voters in Texas and Ohio to vote early, and his campaign is running huge video-enabled billboard ads to promote the convenient option, writes Kate Kaye. Yet, despite a desperate need to beat her Democratic opponent in the two states in Tuesday’s primaries, Senator Hillary Clinton’s camp doesn’t seem to be running Web display ads at all.