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Battleground Virginia

BY Nancy Scola | Wednesday, April 29 2009

The Washington Post's tech and politics writer Jose Antonio Vargas has a new piece out framing the state of Virginia as the latest and greatest battleground in the sort of advanced online politics we saw in the '08 presidential race. The trickle down has trickled down, all the way to the states. Give it a read. But while the contest to replace the term-limited Tim Kaine in the governor's mansion might be a microcosm of post-Obama politics and a test case for whether wired politics works on a local level, Virginia is not exactly a state like any other. Not for nothing is NoVa a quick Metro ride for DC-based political consultants and the home for a vast many of their Virginia-based counterparts. Vargas, on the 2008 veterans now working out their theories and perfecting their techniques in the Virginia governor's race:

Kate Sokolov, who was in charge of Hillary Rodham Clinton's social networking, is [Creigh] Deeds's new-media director. She is aided by Scott Goodstein, who orchestrated Barack Obama's text-messaging program. In the [Robert] McDonnell camp, Vincent Harris, who worked for Mike Huckabee, heads the online shop. One of the vendors he is working with is the online consulting firm Engage DC, operated by Mindy Finn and Patrick Ruffini, who formerly worked for Mitt Romney and Rudolph W. Giuliani, respectively.

The candidates -- Deeds, Brian Moran, and Terry McAuliffe on the Democratic side and McDonnell as the lone Republican contender -- are, writes Vargas, battling it out on every social network and social media hub going, from YouTube to Twitter to local blogs. They're finessing Google Ads keyed off of phrases other than their names; we've noticed, for example, McAuliffe buying keywords that trigger ads when someone gets an email from Democratic fundraising hub ActBlue. Moran's team is experimenting with a MyBarackObama.com-alike called Organize Virginia. One thing though, writes Vargas, does separate the Virginia gubernatorial contest from the last presidential cycle: there doesn't seem to be much of a difference between how Democrats and Republicans are taking to new media. (Photo: taberandrew)