I am not talking here about Barack Obama the candidate, or his stands on the issues.
I am talking here about what I wrote when he announced, namely that his Internet strategy was poor.
Fact is, I underestimated the pace of change, which I don't usually do. I assumed the 2008 campaign would require an intimate, interactive relationship with the candidate, which the 2004 Dean campaign had.
Since then, Internet politics has advanced by leaps and bounds. The 2006 Had Enough ads, produced with help from Hollywood music mogul (and blogger) Howie Klein, gave many candidates an even-shot where they were being outspent heavily. The Macaca Incident took down George F. Allen, putting him on the defensive from the moment the video hit YouTube.
But do you really need a heavy-hitter like Klein? The 1984 mash-up (above) cost Obama nothing. It has been viewed 1.3 million times by last count, gaining precious media buzz. Obama is already drawing immense crowds, thanks in part to self-organizing at Facebook and MySpace. It took Dean months to understand self-organizing. Obama's campaign has understood it from the start.
The intimacy we seek in 2007 is not with the candidate, but with the process. What Obama has done is to give tools to people who weren't familiar with them. The Hillary mash-up is just the first shot in what will be a long media war fought between the Internet and TV.
In this case, notice that the ad sat virtually unnoticed for some weeks before political bloggers picked it up. They passed it along to newspapers, and from there the story went to TV, where the candidate himself was asked about it Monday. The good news is that Obama was by then familiar with the video, and knew exactly what to say:
"In some ways, it's the democratization of the campaign process, but it's not something that we had anything to do with or were aware of and that, frankly, given what it looks like, we don't have the technical capacity to create something like this. It's pretty extraordinary."
Notice all the things Obama did in that paragraph. He denied responsibility for the ad, he put the ad into historical context, and he praised the ad, increasing the buzz. (Mama didn't raise no dummy.) The whole process cost his campaign absolutely nothing.
The real question is, of course, what will this do to the numbers? There were already indications Obama was catching up to Clinton, reversing her early lead among African-Americans and winning among younger voters. (He's basically tied among netroots activists with John Edwards.)
While many people continue to insist this is very early in the campaign, the fact is that there will be a virtual national primary on February 5, and the nominee will probably be known on February 6. This is a highly-compressed process, a national process, and Jimmy Carter or Howard Dean-like candidates stand no chance, partly due to California but also partly due to the intense generational feelings people have about tossing out the Bush era.
Every campaign is different. The Internet gets faster-and-faster,
faster-and-faster. I say that all the time. I ignored that this time.
I apologize to you, and to all the candidates, for that mistake.