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Daily Digest: Issues. Remember them?

BY Joshua Levy | Monday, December 10 2007

The Web on the Candidates

  • New York Times Magazine writer Matt Bai articulates what is perhaps the lasting lesson from the Howard Dean campaign. “In the new and evolving online world,” he writes, “the greatest momentum goes not to the candidate with the most detailed plan for conquering the Web but to the candidate who surrenders his own image to the clicking masses, the same way a rock guitarist might fall backward off the stage into the hands of an adoring crowd.” But with the exception of Ron Paul, the campaigns haven’t absorbed this lesson, instead falling back on decades-old strategies of message control. Bai also performs the miracle of (almost) convincing me that the “Obama Girl” video has accomplished more than simply getting four million young men to stare at a gyrating model. Almost.

  • The online Democratic fundraising phenomenon ActBlue is seeking to branch out from focusing on fundraising from individual donors, reports the New York Times’ Leslie Wayne. They’ve asked for the FEC’s permission to broaden their operations “to help union, corporate and other membership political action committees that want to raise money.” A final decision is expected Friday.

  • Speaking of online fundraising sites, William Beutler continues his coverage of the scramble to become the Republican ActBlue. Following a smart conversation with a colleague, he considers whether conservatives need to settle on just one fundraising site (the current field includes Slatecard, run by techPresident contributor David All, Rightroots, and Big Red Tent); whether all of the social features included on these sites are necessary; and the importance of enabling state-level fundraising. For the handful of you out there that can’t get enough of this stuff, it’s a must read.

  • Issues. Remember them? How about poverty? It’s an issue that, despite John Edwards making it a central tenet of his platform, has hardly been discussed in debates media coverage of the campaigns. ONE is trying to change that, so its On the Record project posts videos of all of the Democrats and three Republicans, John McCain, Mitt Romney, and Mike Huckabee, talking about their “legacy to the world’s poor.” You can then compare up to three statements at a time. While it’s great to see most of the candidates responding, where are the other Republicans?

  • What with all of the problems cropping up with voting machines, citizen apathy, and corruption in government, some might think it’s up to the conceptual artists to push our democracy back in the right direction. That’s why artist Jonathon Keats has developed OuijaVote 2008, which involves the notion of “paranormal democracy” and “positing the democratic process as a mystical algorithm.” This electoral Ouija board is similar to those scary board games that helped you conjure up the spirit of your dead great-grandmother, except that it’s electronic and networked, potentially connecting thousands of voters across the land to the political opinions of the deceased. “For those who see voting as an act of the collective consciousness, there’s no better way to channel that,” Keats told Inside Bay Area’s Angela Hill. Maybe this will fix our democracy.

The Candidates on the Web

  • The data nuts at Compete have been tracking visits to the candidates’ sites by state, and will soon release charts showing that November site traffic. The results are somewhat illuminating: Ron Paul’s site the top Republican site being visited in most states, with only core southern and western states visiting Mike Huckabee’s site more. On the Democratic side, things are more evenly divided between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, though it’s interesting that Clinton is more popular in the Northeast, the mid-Atlantic states, and the west. Check out the Compete blog in the coming days for more.

  • More from the bowels of data-dom: Check out Mike Huckabee’s Hitwise numbers. His share of traffic has been rising over the last month or so, and last week he’s just about come even with Ron Paul, who has been dominating the Republican field. As of December 7, Huck has 37% of the Republican traffic share, compared to Paul’s 38%. I think we can all agree that Huck is here to stay.

In Case You Missed It…

Micah Sifry spent two days at a mini-retreat on open government data organized by Carl Malamud of Public.Resource.Org, hosted by Tim O’Reilly of O’Reilly Media and funded by the Sunlight Foundation, Google and Yahoo! Check out his roundup for a quick and fascninating education about who’s working on what open democracy tech projects.