Daily Digest: The Right Quarrels Over MyBarackObama.com
BY Nancy Scola | Monday, June 9 2008
The Web on the Candidates
Two of the more breathtaking "did s/he really just say that?" moments of this election season have to be when Barack Obama talked of Americans who "cling to guns or religion at a California fundraiser and Bill Clinton called a Vanity Fair reporter “a real slimy guy” at a South Dakota campaign events. Remarkably, both came to us via one self-described amateur reporter named Mayhill Fowler, a contributor to the Huffington Post's Off the Bus who certainly knows where to point her palm-sized digital recorder. Saying of the Obama incident, “of course he had no idea I was a journalist, Fowler gives the inside scoop on how she got those scoops. The New York Times and Washington Post also have their takes on Fowler.
John Battelle has called it Google's Database of Intentions -- the company's mind-blowing cache of data on what we're searching for online day in and day out. A Richmond high schooler named Michael Giuffrida is exploring the idea that Google Trends might help predict voting behavior. Of course, this sort of thing's tricky. Remember how Tivo was supposed to predict who got voted off American Idol? And then came that week when Syesha decidedly did not get the boot. What's more interesting is using Google search patterns to track how we're thinking about the race, like "Candidate X + immigration" = a intense interests in that candidate's take on that issue. (The mouth waters thinking about how much Mountain View knows about what's on our minds this election season.)
When Joe Lieberman launched a Citizens for McCain effort with a reference to the "Democrat Party," the online left reacted quickly -- passing around both a video clip showing Obama doing a pull-aside of Lieberman on the Senate floor and links to "The 'Ic' Factor," a two-year old dissection in the New Yorker on why Lieberman's reference to his old party strikes some as offensive. Seemed to me a compact demonstration of how the Internet is already making this general election a far richer multi-media experience than ones gone by.
The Candidates on the Web
Little Green Footballs' Charles Johnson and some other bloggers on the right are eager to tie Barack Obama to a post on MyBarackObama.com called "How the Jewish Lobby Works." Over on the Next Right, TechPresident's Patrick Ruffini condemns the idea that a candidate is responsible for every word uttered on a community site he or she has sponsored. Borrowing idea from the producers of Lost, I've written in the past about the possibility that campaigns might claim some of what swirls around them online as "in-canon" content. But how different are the rules when you're not creating a TV show but instead running for POTUS? The Obama campaign seems content to figure it all out on the way to the election booth.
Of course, one fairly sure way to avoid troublesome posts from supporters and being caught by Mayhill Fowler’s digital recorder? Keep your site closed and mouth shut -- or at least your comments scripted. Joe Garofoli has a round-up on how the Hillary Clinton campaign seemed to take a restricted approach to new media.
With video seeming to take a more and more central role in this election cycle, two fifteen minute-ish pieces from the Obama and McCain campaigns show how the medium can be shaped to fit the personality of the campaign. From Team Obama we've got a behind-the-scenes look as the candidate pumps up his campaign staff. And from Team McCain we have campaign chief Rick Davis's Power Point-style presentation on his general election strategy.
In Case You Missed It...
Micah Sifry asks what might become of the Obama organization should the time come to turn from campaigning to governing, with at other "movement" candidates from presidential elections gone by: Jackson '84/'88, Perot '92/'96, and Dean '04.
The McCain campaign should release an API -- in other words, a thingawhatsit that allows third-parties to interact with your core programming infrastructure, suggests Patrick Ruffini. If you're not going to attract top tech talent to your campaign (either because of political inclination or resource limitations) then the way to go is to open up the effort, but see bullet point four above: how responsible is a candidate for what they foster online?
As Team McCain launches The McCain Report, a new blog, Ari Melber asks what highlighting Daily Kos as a "featured blog" might mean.