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Is the Obama Campaign a Model for Online Politics?

BY Colin Delany | Sunday, February 3 2008

Cross-posted on e.politics

Over the past few months, we've gotten tantalizing hints of the level of integration of online and offline organizing that the Obama campaign has achieved. For instance, of the $32 million that his campaign raised last month, $28 million came in online, and though the vast majority of donations were small, this also tells us that the Obama people must have pushed almost ALL of their fundraising online, even for the people who would normally send a large check.

But politics is about mobilizing people, not just about raising money, and a few weeks ago we got this vignette:

In Sen. Barack Obama's Iowa headquarters, young staff members sit at computers, analyzing online voter data and targeting potential backers. They zip one e-mail to an undecided voter and zap a different message to a firm supporter.

Depending on the voter, they follow with Facebook reminders, telephone calls, text messages and, most important, house visits.

Matching the communications channel to the supporter! For another view, check out this part of Zephyr Teachout's lovely stream-of-consciousness look at on-the-ground canvassing:

I looked up Obama's SC office online, they emailed me the $26/night hotel, I used Google Maps to find the location, I showed up, they used computer printouts from a massive database, and an attached mapquest-generated map, and an attached database generated canvass map, to give me a set of doors to knock on. Eight years ago none of this would have happened.

E.politics has long preached the virtues of integrated online/offline communications, and it's fascinating to see a major campaign with big resources put the idea into action and really go beyond the basics. I have no special insight into the Obama campaign, just the same public information we all have access to, but the sense I get is that these folks are really using the web rather than just throwing things online. Their 2007 spending reflects it: in addition to any internal staff resources, "Obama spent more than $2 million on hardware and software, paid the Internet consulting firm Blue State Digital nearly $400,000 and paid technology consultant Joseph Rospars more than $90,000."

From fundraising to voter contact to social networking to online organizing of offline events, the critical point is that the Obama campaign seems to have integrated their supporter communications to a very effective degree — it's not one tool, it's the combination that matters. And the MoveOn.org endorsement is just the latest indicator that the internet community is responding. At this point, the Obama campaign looks like a model that for other campaigns going into the future, and I can't wait to talk with his online people when they're free to speak openly.

cpd

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