CNN has a great little story on the role the Internet will play during the ’08 Senate race in Virginia.
The story leads with the fact that former Senator George Allen has begun to embrace blogging – the same technology that helped ruin his political career:
In the summer of 2006, Allen held a monster lead over Jim Webb in the Virginia Senate race. One famous YouTube video and several campaign slip-ups later, Webb is now in the Senate wrangling over Iraq spending bills while Allen is at home in Virginia, blogging about football.
The irony of Allen’s newfound Internet hobby isn’t lost on anyone, but his Web dabbling reflects the growing realization among Republicans that the Web is crucial to modern campaigning.
(If you’re curious, you can read Allen’s blog here.)
Allen’s “macaca” blunder, while important, overshadowed a crucial factor in that race: Democrats ran a grassroots campaign that capitalized on Internet fundraising and a cohesive network of state bloggers and netroots activists. Without YouTube, Webb may not have won. But without bloggers, who lobbied him to run and lined up $40,000 in campaign pledges to nudge him along, Webb may never have entered the race in the first place. That same army is now ready to go to bat for Warner.
The second advantage for Democrats is that Warner, who made his personal fortune in cell phone technology, has made tech efforts and blogger outreach a priority over the last two years.
During his brief flirtation with a presidential run in 2006, Warner courted bloggers at the annual YearlyKos convention in Las Vegas with a lavish party featuring ice sculptures and chocolate fountains. He held a bizarre press conference in the virtual world of Second Life. He also introduced “mini-Mark,” a walking, talking, animated Warner that appeared on the bottom of his political action committee’s Web site.
This is what the future of campaigning looks like.
(Mark Warner’s Avatar)