“You will never be Barack Obama.” But can you use his web strategy?

By Isaac Salazar on 04.27.09


As anticipated, the 2009 Politics Online Conference provided a plethora of great information for folks interested in the intersection of the internet and politics. However, one panel stood out because it dove into Online Politics at the State Level. For my inaugural post, I thought I’d jot down my takeaways from the panel and hopefully continue the discussion.

e.politics founder Colin Delaney moderated the panel which included Wired for Change VP of Development Jim Walsh, U.S. “Shadow” Representative Mike Panetta (D-DC),  Republican D.C. Council candidate Patrick Mara, and MD Delegate Jon Cardin (11th, Baltimore County) — Full disclosure: Jon’s a friend of mine and I used to work for his uncle with Jim — All four panelists provided good insight into how state and local campaigns have leveraged the web but Panetta stole the show with these words of wisdom, ”You will never be Barack Obama, you will never raise as much money as Barack Obama.” While this is true,  does it mean local candidates can’t successfully employ a similar strategy?

In no particular order, here are a few takeaways from the panel:

1. Integration. Integration. Integration: It’s the same story from successful national political and issue advocacy campaigns but smaller local campaigns often miss this or fail to see its importance.

2. Digital Divide: Access to the internet is very much an issue in a lot of local districts, especially in rural areas. According to Jim (not the show), 60% of state candidates have a website.  That means 40% didn’t!..and 10% did online fundraising.

3. Local webcelebs: Add “Scranton Jim’s Space” to your RSS Reader. Know who the leading local online bloggers, tweeters are, etc.

4. Voter files are a socnet goldmine. Import those e-mail addresses to “find your friends.”

Can state and local campaigns successfully apply the lessons learned from the Obama campaign’s web strategy? We know they’re going to try, so over the course of the next election cycle we’re going to find out and you’ll find me here writing about it.