NYTimes-- of course it neglects to mention the very real possbility that hundreds of millions of BO's money came from foreigners overseas , , ,
The ’08 Campaign: Sea Change for Politics as We Know It
By ADAM NAGOURNEY
Published: November 3, 2008
The 2008 race for the White House that comes to an end on Tuesday fundamentally upended the way presidential campaigns are fought in this country, a legacy that has almost been lost with all the attention being paid to the battle between Senators John McCain and Barack Obama.
The Obama campaign’s use of the Internet to organize supporters and to reach voters has been cited as playing a large role in upending how presidential races are fought. It has rewritten the rules on how to reach voters, raise money, organize supporters, manage the news media, track and mold public opinion, and wage — and withstand — political attacks, including many carried by blogs that did not exist four years ago. It has challenged the consensus view of the American electoral battleground, suggesting that Democrats can at a minimum be competitive in states and regions that had long been Republican strongholds.
The size and makeup of the electorate could be changed because of efforts by Democrats to register and turn out new black, Hispanic and young voters. This shift may have long-lasting ramifications for what the parties do to build enduring coalitions, especially if intensive and technologically-driven voter turnout programs succeed in getting more people to the polls. Mr. McCain’s advisers expect a record-shattering turnout of 130 million people, many being brought into the political process for the first time.
“I think we’ll be analyzing this election for years as a seminal, transformative race,” said Mark McKinnon, a senior adviser to President Bush’s campaigns in 2000 and 2004. “The year campaigns leveraged the Internet in ways never imagined. The year we went to warp speed. The year the paradigm got turned upside down and truly became bottom up instead of top down.”
To a considerable extent, Republicans and Democrats say, this is a result of the way that the Obama campaign sought to understand and harness the Internet (and other forms of so-called new media) to organize supporters and to reach voters who no longer rely primarily on information from newspapers and television. The platforms included YouTube, which did not exist in 2004, and the cellphone text messages that the campaign was sending out to supporters on Monday to remind them to vote.
“We did some very innovative things on the data side, and we did some Internet,” said Sara Taylor, who was the White House political director during Mr. Bush’s re-election campaign. “But only 40 percent of the country had broadband back then. You now have people who don’t have home telephones anymore. And Obama has done a tremendous job of waging a campaign through the new media challenge.
“I don’t know about you, but I see an Obama Internet ad every day. And I have for six months.”
Even more crucial to the way this campaign has transformed politics has been Mr. Obama’s success at using the Internet to build a huge network of contributors that permitted him to raise enough money — after declining to participate in the public financing system — to expand the map and compete in traditionally Republican states.
No matter who wins the election, Republicans and Democrats say, Mr. Obama’s efforts in places like Indiana, North Carolina and Virginia — organizing and advertising to voters who previously had little exposure to Democratic ideas and candidates — will force future candidates to think differently.
“The great impact that this election will have for the future is that it killed public financing for all time,” said Mr. McCain’s chief campaign strategist, Steve Schmidt. “That means the next Republican presidential campaign, hopefully a re-election for John McCain, will need to be a billion-dollar affair to challenge what the Democrats have accomplished with the use of the Internet and viral marketing to communicate and raise money.”
“It was a profound leap forward technologically,” Mr. Schmidt added. “Republicans will have to figure out how to compete with this in order to become competitive again at a national level and in House and Senate races.”
This transformation did not happen this year alone. In 2000, Mr. Bush’s campaign, lead by Karl Rove and Ken Mehlman, pioneered the use of microtargeting to find and appeal to potential new supporters. In 2004, the presidential campaign of Howard Dean was widely credited with being the first to see the potential power of the Internet to raise money and sign up volunteers, a platform that Mr. Obama tremendously expanded.
“They were Apollo 11, and we were the Wright Brothers,” said Joe Trippi, the manager of Mr. Dean’s campaign.
Terry Nelson, who was the political director of the Bush campaign in 2004, said that the evolution was challenging campaign operatives who worked for every presidential campaign, and would continue in 2012 and beyond.
“We are in the midst of a fundamental transformation of how campaigns are run,” Mr. Nelson said. “And it’s not over yet.”
The changes go beyond what Mr. Obama did and reflect a cultural shift in voters, producing an audience that is at once better informed, more skeptical and, from reading blogs, sometimes trafficking in rumors or suspect information. As a result, this new electorate tends to be more questioning of what it is told by campaigns and often uses the Web to do its own fact-checking.
“You do focus groups and people say, ‘I saw that ad and I went to this Web site to check it,’ ” said David Plouffe, the Obama campaign manager. “They are policing the campaigns.”
Mr. Schmidt said the speed and diversity of the news cycle had broken down the traditional way that voters received information and had given campaigns opportunities, and challenges, in trying to manage the news.
“The news cycle is hyperaccelerated and driven by new players on the landscape, like Politico and Huffington Post, which cause competition for organizations like The A.P. where there is a high premium on being first,” he said. “This hyperaccelerates a cable-news cycle driven to conflict and drama and trivia.”
Among the biggest changes this year is the intense new interest in politics, reflected in jumps in voters registration, early voting and attendance at Mr. Obama’s rallies. To no small extent, that is a reflection on the unusual interest stirred by his campaign. Thus, it is hardly clear that a future candidate who appropriated all the innovations that Mr. Obama and his campaign tried would necessarily have the same success as Mr. Obama.
“Without the candidate who excites people,” Mr. Plouffe said, “you can have the greatest strategy and machinery and it won’t matter.”
Mr. Trippi, who worked for one of Mr. Obama’s rivals in the Democratic primary, former Senator John Edwards, said: “It has all come together for one guy, Barack Obama. But now that it’s happened, it’s a permanent change.”