More on the impact of the web on the 2008 election

“Whether announcing their candidacy online or rueing the release of revealing video clips, no contender for the White House in 2008 can ignore the power of the internet”, writes, Laura Smith-Spark of BBC. “Barely a week goes by without a political story breaking on a blog or social networking site like YouTube and MySpace”.

We know this by now, but here comes the interesting claim:

“...according to conservative bloggers who met at the Washington Times last week, the battle is already as good as won - and not by them.

The battle of the Internet, that is.

A bit early to make that claim I would say. No need to be too negative early in the campaign. But I want to continue quoting Laura Smith-Spark, because she is really asking some interesting questions in her article…. Unfortunately without providing good answers. But hey, at least she is trying. They are some fairly complex questions to answer in 500 words.

Conservative bloggers claim, according to Smith-Spark, that:

…their rivals on the left of the political spectrum - and the Democrats they are backing - have the edge in organisation, message and clout. And that, they say, that could cost the Republicans dear in 2008. So has the left really won the battle of the web? And if so, what influence - if any - will that have on the outcome of the presidential race?

So…what’s her answer to this?

Observers explain the gap by arguing that bloggers on the left are united in one aim - getting a Democrat into the White House in 2008 - whereas the right is more fragmented. The left has also rallied to the cause of ending the war in Iraq. In addition, blogging emerged at a time when the Republicans controlled both Congress and the White House - and was embraced by the left as the ideal platform for grassroots, bottom-up activism. On the other hand conservatives, who have traditionally dominated talk radio with high-profile presenters like Rush Limbaugh, have tended to use their blogs for commentary and to pass on the top-down party message, observers say. Now, with many liberal bloggers collaborating to push the Democratic agenda - so giving the news they promote greater prominence and attracting more mainstream media attention - the more fragmented right risks losing influence.

Jon Henke, new media director for the Republican Communication Office and contributor of the QuandO blog, argues that blogs are not directly responsible for deciding elections. What they do is shape the media coverage, writes Smith-Spark.

Well, they do more than that, and I know that Henke knows that too, because I am quoting him on this in my thesis dealing exactly with the questions asked by Smith-Spark.

Trying to answer her well-formulated questions, Smith-Spark uses Jeff Jarvis, a media professor who blogs at to balance the answer of her article. Jarvis claims that:

"The Democrats are doing better, but slightly - the truth is, they are all behind," he told the BBC News website.

And then he says something unsurprising, but still very interesting:

What I am seeing is the poorer the candidate, the smarter their use of the internet. Others are relying on big money, thinking it's still going to be fought on television.

Jarvis also claims that:

He would like to see all the contenders - Democrat and Republican - treat the internet as another way to get "face-to-face" with potential voters, by going online to answer questions and posting responses on blogs that criticise them.

I guess the reason why I find this article so interesting is that I am handing in my Masters Thesis dealing exactly with the questions asked in the BBC article. I plan to release the thesis in it’s full on the blog. So if you are in for a more detailed answer of the questions discussed throughout this post, check in on the site again next Monday – And we will provide you more insight…exclusively.


More news on this: Democrats Have an Early Lead ... in the Web 2.0 Race

- Espen