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Daily Digest: As the Saying Goes, Vote Early, Often, Absentee

BY Nancy Scola | Monday, September 15 2008

The Web on the Candidates

  • Leaving It All on the Field: Eek! November 4th, a.k.a. Election Day, is just 50 days away. Everyone from the presidential campaigns to independent activists are turning their attention to the ground game. It's critical, of course. Without getting the proverbial ballots stuffed in the ballot box, all the yammering and politicking of the last two years will be for naught. The Obama campaign has launched the drop-dead simple Vote for Change mini-site. There, anyone can register to vote, find local polling place information, or request an absentee ballot. Then there's "Go Vote Absentee," a sponsored project from Mobilize.org that greases the wheels on pre-voting. Campaigns luuurve early voters. Ticks in their columns this far out let them focus on pulling in more elusive votes, so expect to see both camps make efforts along these lines. Though it should be noted that there's nothing stopping voters of any inclination from using the above-mentioned tools. Related: PdF's Alison Fine has a look at the risks and rewards of early voting. #

  • Graphic News: Now, this is just hot: a stark image map of the number of news references to the presidential campaigns that's compelling enough to make Edward Tufte grin, from the good folks at Every Moment Now. (Be sure to click on individual elements to drill down to the underlying data.) See? Politics doesn't have to be so horribly ugly. #

  • The Netroots and Obama's Somewhat Awkward Dance: Is the liberal-leaning Netroots getting played by the GOP? A provocative though unsigned comment highlighted by the Atlantic's Andrew Sullivan, a passionate Obama supporter, makes the case that indeed it is. Much too much energy, says the commenter, is spent knocking down John McCain and Sarah Palin. Not nearly enough is poured into building up Barack Obama or that guy named Joe Biden who was in the news a day or two last month. But the Daily Kos' Markos Moulitsas thinks that the argument's pure bunk -- in a time like this, the very raison d'être of liberal blogs is to kick the spit out of the other guy. Markos: "I'm more than happy to get down in the mud with our friends on the Right so Obama doesn't have to." No matter where you shake out on the question, it's an interesting debate. And here's a useful data point to throw into the mix: our latest Technorati tracking charts show nearly twice the overall blog mentions of McCain and/or Palin than Obama and/or Biden pulled in. #

The Candidates on the Web

  • Harnessing the Watch Dogs: The Democratic National Committee's new "Count the Lies" addition to its McCainpedia wiki takes a savvy tack on fact checking. The project aims to counter the McCain camp's claims on everything from the size of the crowd he drew to a northern Virginia rally to a sex-education bill that State Senator Obama vote aye on. But the DNC yelling "the Republican candidate is lying!!!" doesn't attract much attention. They are, after all, the paid opposition. Instead, the project pulls in proxies from FactCheck.org to traditional news outlets to tag what Team McCain says as misleading statements and outright whoppers. #

  • What the Web Says About the "Bush Doctrine": In interviews last week, CBC newsman Charlie Gibson seemed to catch Sarah Palin a bit unawares on the meaning of the term "Bush Doctrine." But a debate has broken out: is there one agreed upon meaning of the term? Palin defenders say that there's not. Great minds, they say, disagree on what that particular bit of short hand stands for. Now writer Daniel Radosh digs into the "Bush Doctrine" Wikipedia entry and says that there was indeed a consensus -- until, that is, last week's controversy. Since the Gibson-Palin sit down, the entry has been edited more than a hundred times. Radosh writes, "Palin apologists literally rewrote the definition to retroactively make their candidate look less ignorant."#

  • "Fake" Emails Offer Peek into Home Stretch Strategy: Recent emails sent by the McCain organization to voters in some parts of the country highlight Sarah Palin. Those sent to other regions relegate his running mate to a footnote. And Obama mailers tend to leave out Joe Biden altogether. Those are some of the findings from the Christian Science Monistor's Patchwork Nation project, as detailed by Dante Chinni. Many moons ago, Patchwork Nation set up 11 "pseudovoter" profiles for pretend Americans living in "Service Worker Centers" (as typified by Lincoln City, OR), "Evangelical Epicenters" (Nixa, MO), and nine other locales. The CSM's results are a fascinating look at how, thanks to voter targeting, this national election can look entirely different from where in the nation you happen to be standing. #

In Case You Missed It...

Kick your apathy to the curb and get informed about your local politics, urges danah boyd. danah lays a step-by-step guide to "leverag[ing] the collective intelligence of those around you" by hosting a research party. Here's a taste: "Invite your friends to your house for a ballot party... promise alcohol." Hey, politics and free drinks? I'd show.

David Weinberger reports on a recent Harvard event that featured the New York Times Magazine's Matt Bai, Washingtonian's Garrett Graff, and Joe Trippi. The panel, says David, couldn't agree with each other (and sometimes even themselves) on whether the Internet is leaving us all hopelessly trapped inside echo chambers.

Micah Sifry tracks down the filmmaker behind the independent "Dear Mr. Obama" ad burning up YouTube. The two-minute clip boasts a breathtaking 6.8 million views as of today.

Also from Micah: an Obama campaign ad that hits McCain for not sending emails "uses sloppy language" that allows the candidate's defenders to avoid an important question. Actual typing, it seems, is extremely difficult for McCain, given the injuries he sustained during his half-decade as prisoner of war in Vietnam. Micah writes that "the issue is not whether the next President can send an email or knows how to get on a computer... The issue is whether he understands how the world is being fundamentally transformed by the Internet."