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Demand-side Politics On the Rise

BY Micah L. Sifry | Thursday, September 27 2007

[Here's a snippet of my and Andrew Rasiej's latest "Politics 2.0" column in the Politico.]

Most of the time in American presidential politics, if you’re a voter who doesn’t live in one of the early-primary states, or in one of the handful of major cities that generate serious cash for candidates, the odds of you ever seeing a candidate at this point in the election cycle are pretty low.

According to The Washington Post’s “Campaign Tracker” database, Iowa has seen 1,240 candidate events; New Hampshire, 571; South Carolina, 268; California, 238; D.C., 174; Florida, 146; Nevada, 111; and New York, 103.The odds of a candidate coming to a small town in Kentucky, which has neither money nor an early primary, are basically nil.

Except that’s what Democratic candidate and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards is going to do on Oct. 4, when he will visit the town of Columbus, Ky., population 229.

He’s going there because his campaign has embraced a new Web tool called Eventful.com, which is a giant repository of upcoming events and performances.

But Eventful isn’t just a database. Users of Eventful can not only find out when their favorite performer is coming to their town, they can express a “demand” for her appearance. Thousands of musicians have used the site to let their fans help pick their tour stops. More than 5 million individual demands have been expressed since the demand tool launched on Eventful last year.

Edwards is going to Columbus because, a few months ago, his campaign announced a contest and promised he would visit whatever town or city got the most demands for him on Eventful. At first, big cities like Los Angeles were in the lead, but then a 24-year-old activist named Shawn Dixon started e-mailing his friends and using social and political hub sites like Facebook, MySpace and Daily Kos to spread the word.

“We want to see John Edwards come to real rural America and address the problems we face and hear his plan for revitalizing small American communities like ours!” he wrote. Eventually, 1,870 people agreed with him — including folks from larger cities who said they gave up their “vote” because they wanted a small town to get attention, as well as people from other small towns who saw Columbus as symbolic of their own.

Edwards’ event in Columbus isn’t the only example of how Eventful is subtly changing how campaigns and voters relate to each other.

To read the rest of our Politics 2.0 column in the Politico, go here. See also Alex Hunsucker's post, which gives the inside view from Eventful's perspective.