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Daily Digest: Party Hopefuls Vying for Tech Cred

BY Nancy Scola | Tuesday, January 6 2009

  • Gathering of RNC Candidates Highlights Tech: The half dozen contenders for the post of RNC chairman gathered yesterday for an event that was threaded through with what might fairly be called an obsession with technology. It was webcast live to much fanfare on (which our our Mike Turk calls "a step in the right direction for the GOP"). Americans for Tax Reform's Grover Norquist heartily thanked conservative online hubs Red State and Townhall for their support.'s Mindy Finn and Patrick Ruffini shared moderating duties with Norquist. And the most heated moment of the debate may have come when the candidates battled over the number of Facebook friends they enjoy. RNC hopeful Ken Blackwell bragged about having 4,000 amigos on Facebook, then added, "[but] who's counting?" Righhht. Asked by Finn about their support for Rebuild the Party's 10-point plan (about 31 minutes into the linked video), candidates Mike Duncan and Chip Saltsman paid near fealty. The rest of the field used the question to spotlight their own takes on what faces the party. Saul Anuzis homed in the necessity of "organic organizations," Blackwell stressed the importance of integrating the "e-campaign" with the rest of the RNC's mission, and Michael Steele and Katon Dawson focused their support on the wisdom of the GOP undertaking a 50-state strategy -- with Dawson saying that the fact that he alone hasn't endorsed the plan is due to its "quotas" for how local campaigns should be run. Dial in to an hour and 15 minutes into the debate to catch the display of the candidates scrambling over one another to be crowned the master of all things Twitter. Yep, we watched (nearly) the whole thing, so you don't have to.

  • On Our First Federal CTO: Nope, Not Yet: When we discussed a report in the New York Times yesterday that Barack Obama would finally (cue whiny voice) be naming a Chief Technology Officer this Wednesday, we commented, "we'll see." Well, looks like we won't. Next Gov's Allan Holmes quotes an Obama transition spokesperson calling that report "wrong," adding for clarity, "there is no CTO announcement on Wednesday." The waiting continues. In the meantime, go on and join in on the CTO prediction market our Matt Burton has set up.

  • McCain Said "No" to Announcing VP Via Text or Web: The National Journal's Lucas Grindley adds context to a bit of news broken by the aforementioned Patrick Ruffini. The McCain campaign, reports Ruffini, was presented early on with the idea of announcing its VP pick online or through text messaging. They declined, seeing the approach as "undignified" (Ruffini's words). Grindley quotes Ruffini as calling that decision "just so self-defeating and so illustrative of the problem" facing the GOP. Grindley frames the choice as a retrograde move rooted in the idea that only a television-based rollout of Sarah Palin could deliver the wallop necessary to counter Obama's post-convention bounce -- of a piece with the rest of the McCain campaign, where the former fighter pilot seemed to be flying by instinct, not instruments. That said, McCain would likely have been skewered for the same technical and logistical hiccups that plagued Obama's VP announcement, and his campaign simply didn't have the new media team in place to make much use of the data that an online announcement would have generated.

  • Accounting for the Transition's Funders: The Obama transition has gone down a somewhat different road than Bill Clinton in revealing its donors -- though, of course, the motivations and expectations are entirely different. Clinton posted spotty details on contributors to his foundation on 2,900 different web pages. Meanwhile, Team Obama has disclosed who has ponied up a running total of $3.8 million for the presidential transition using a searchable, easily-navigable (though somewhat pokey) tool called Blist. For what it's worth -- and frankly, it's not all that much, the database reveals how much has been kicked in by big names in the tech world with Obama ties. Google's Eric Schmidt has chipped in $5,000, "father of the Internet" Vint Cerf $2,500, and Apple's Steve Jobs nada. CQ Politics' Emily Cadei has more details on how those donations break down.

  • Stoller Goes Native: Um, we think "holy cow" is the appropriate reaction here. Open Left blogger Matt Stoller, known for being a passionate advocate and agitator, is leaving the blogging world to take a job inside the House of Representatives. The goal, Stoller writes, is to "see how the place works and to help create the space for more progressive policies" -- aimed at closing a "rootsgap" between what the American people want and their leaders deliver.

  • Obama's Twitter Account Appropriated: Now, a Twitter update from Barack Obama that asks followers to take a survey in exchange for five hundred bucks is suspicious enough. But when CNN host Rick Sanchez tweets "i am high on crack right now might not be coming into work today," your spidey sense should probably confirm that something is up. The Twitter accounts of Obama, Sanchez, and handful of other famous folks were compromised yesterday. TechCrunch's Mike Arrington has screen shots and details. How'd it happen? Twitter's Biz Stone blogs that someone "hacked into some of the tools our support team uses to help people do things like edit the email address associated with their Twitter account," meaning, it seems, the whole Twitter system was compromised. Still, given that @barackobama has been silent since election day, it was nice to hear from him again.

  • Consolidation Saves Our Courts: In his annual state of the courts report (pdf), Chief Justice John Roberts has announced that through the consolidation of tech infrastructure focused on efficiency, the federal judiciary is on track to save some $55 million by 2012. "The Judiciary is steeped in history," writes Roberts, "but not tied to the past." (Via Nextgov)

In Case You Missed It...

Nancy Scola asks whether a frank video from Elizabeth Warren, the Harvard professor who is helping with congressional oversight of the financial industry's bailout package and its spending of nearly a trillion dollars, is "endearingly forthright or downright terrifying."

Justin Oberman profiles SMS Sderot, a program that gives followers suggestions on how to show solidarity when the city in southern Israel is the target of a Hamas rocket: "You have: 15 seconds to read Psalm 130. 15 seconds to give to charity 15 seconds to call the UN, the White House, your Senators and Congressman 15 Seconds to pause and pray for the people of Sderot."

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