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Daily Digest: McCain's Grassroots Moment

BY Nancy Scola | Thursday, January 8 2009

  • "My Friend...": Presidential silver medalist John McCain jumped back into the political fray yesterday with the launch of a "grassroots organization" called Country First. The Arizona senator is himself up for re-election in 2010, but in an email announcing the PAC, McCain asks for help supporting a new generation of Republican leaders. In fact, he asks for fans to become PAC "charter members" (read: make a donation) five separate times. Country First's new online home simply features a contribution form and a video of the section of McCain's familiar stump speech where he described the roots of his love of country. The reaction to the launch probably wasn't what McCain was hoping for. HotAir's Ed Morrissey: "Color me less than enthused." TechRepublican's David All: "I'm not convinced that McCain's story -- though extremely compelling, heroic, etc. -- is enough to make me want to join up in his 'movement.'" But they might want to delay judgment; a note on the bare bones site promises "Full website coming soon!"

  • The Dean Brothers Get Each Other's Backs: Speaking of the PACs you launch after you don't quite make it to the White House, Democracy for America -- the organization that grew out of Howard Dean's presidential run -- is putting some pressure on his apparent successor as Democratic National Committee Chairman. DFA chair (and brother of Howard) Jim Dean is circulating an online petition that urges the incoming DNC chair, Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, to "reinstate the 50 State Strategy." That's the controversial organizing approach that devotes party resources to places in the U.S. where conventional wisdom says Democrats just can't win -- like, say, Alaska. With Howard Dean leaving his DNC post rather unceremoniously, Jim Dean is using DFA's email list to defend both a political strategy that's arguably proven successful and his big brother.

  • Insight from Obama's Text Director: It's worth reading the L.A. Times' Kate Linthicum's interview with Scott Goodstein, who headed up the text messaging program for the Obama campaign, just to hear what question prompted this answer: "South Carolina. Oprah Winfrey." But there's much other good stuff in the Q&A, which is broken up into two parts. Goodstein offers insight into why the (in)famous text message announcing Joe Biden as Obama's VP pick went out in the wee hours of the morning. "We announced it when we were given the green light to announce it," he reports.

  • Smedley Smith's Insufficient Earmark Reform: Proving yet again that there's plenty of room for whimsy in discussions of good government, the Sunlight Foundation's Bill Allison invokes "Sen. Smedley Smith" and his purchase order for $600 hammers from Boondoggle Inc. to explains why true earmark transparency demands good, clean, standardized data.* Roll Call recently reported that House and Senate Appropriations Committee chairs David Obey and Daniel Inouye have agreed to a proposal that would require members of Congress to post their earmark requests to their own websites before the relevant bills pass out of committee. To gain some insight on why 535 different reporting styles in 535 different places might not exactly equal government openness, check out today's great techPresident post from W. David Stephenson's on "democratizing data" -- the subject of an upcoming book Stephenson is co-authoring with DC Chief Technology Officer (and possible federal CTO) Vivek Kundra.

  • Senator Pothole's Best Friend: Craigslist's Craig Newmark points us to FixMyStreet, a project of the innovative U.K. non-profit/startup/volunteer collective mySociety. We talk a lot about using tech to engage citizens in their democracy, of course, but this visual project is so blindingly straightforward that it might prove an a-ha moment. Using a basic web form or nifty iPhone app, Englanders send in reports on problem spots in their communities. The reports are then passed on to government officials. Here's a report of a "smashed up van" in Liverpool, complete with map and color photo. Here's one of a no-entry sign that a Cambridgeshire resident really thinks should be "reflectorised." And here's a water leak in Northampton -- but don't worry, that one has been marked fixed. It's not hard to deduce that savvy elected representatives would crawl over one another to be the ones to solve what's plaguing their constitutions. Perhaps, in the future, a nice feedback loop might develop where that "fixed" note might include a tag for which politician (or local business, for that matter) tackled the problem.

  • Keep Hope Alive, Mr. President-Elect: It's one of the greatest unanswered questions of our time: will Barack Obama get to hang on to his beloved Blackberry? The AP reports that the President-elect is "still in a scuffle" with the other powers-that-be over the issue.

In Case You Missed It...

Nancy Scola reports that the burnout burdening the blogging service SoapBlox reveals a vulnerability in the left's online infrastructure. Nancy also highlights Inauguration Report, an NPR-led project that expands upon Twitter Vote Report to equip attendees to report on the occasion.

Kate Kaye reveals that a considerable chunk of the more than $16 million Obama spent on online advertising during his White House run went to Google.

And Micah Sifry updates our top 50 political blogs list. We forget any?

*Note: Our Andrew Rasiej and Micah Sifry are senior advisors to the Sunlight Foundation.

Got tips, leads, or story ideas for the Daily Digest? Get in touch. Email or contact @techpresident on Twitter.