Online Campaigning Is No Longer Optional - WTOC-TV: Savannah, Beaufort, SC, News, Weather & Sports

07/29/04

Online Campaigning Is No Longer Optional

If you've been anywhere near the internet this year, it's hard to miss all the online campaigning. From the ubiquitous "I'm George W. Bush/I'm John Kerry and I approved this message" to stores where you can buy "W Stuff" or "Kerry Gear."

Then there's Kerry's unprecedented online-first announcement about running mate John Edwards. Armstrong Atlantic State University political science professor John Kearnes says there's a reason for that. "Why did Kerry put it first on the internet? Because he wants the faithful to be the first to know."

Kearnes says all the online stumping is about energizing base supporters. "The wonderful thing about the internet is it allows people to participate, that is the base, in ways they never could," he told us. "They can be creative, they can be part of this campaign."

Democratic volunteer David Steele says the website he manages for the local party helps that base grow.  "We're able to reach our activists, people who already know about the party and know what they're looking for," he said. "At the same time we're we can reach out to people who are maybe just exploring and trying to decide if it's even worth getting into politics."

Over at the Chatham County Republican headquarters, they may not agree with the Democrats politically. But technologically speaking, they do agree the internet is vital when it comes to communicating with voters.

Art Gunter manages the local party's email communication. "The people I email to, a lot of them forward it on to other people, too," he said. "It's not just the people that I get to. It has effects farther down the road."

He agrees with his political rivals that all candidates need to be online. "They should definitely pay attention to it."

Democrat Steele put it this way: "It turns out that sometimes, until you're on the web, you don't really exist."

Another advantage of campaigning online: candidates get more mileage out of their TV commercials, which they can republish on their sites. And they also produce videos that are "aired" exclusively online.

In 2004, candidates ignore online at their peril.

Reported by: Charles Gray, cgray@wtoc.com

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