October 27th, 2008
Cross-posted on techPresident
Got your attention with that headline, eh? No, I’m not saying the ‘net has jumped the shark or otherwise taken a stock market-like plunge as a political tool, but I AM saying that in the last weeks of a political campaign, the internet team’s job is mostly over. There’ll be plenty of Get-Out-The-Vote messages to send, plus last-minute candidate videos and fundraising appeals to promote, but by now the real work should be done — if the systems aren’t in place and the databases largely complete by now, somebody’d better be sweating.
I started thinking about this over the past few weeks while talking with people working on the national campaigns at different levels. Unlike almost everyone else in in the campaign world, the web people seemed remarkably relaxed, as though the storm had already passed. But for a good reason: it turns out that for the big campaigns and their vendors, the online work peaked weeks or even months ago. If your technology isn’t already built and working this close to the election, it’s a little late — software takes too long to develop, debug and scale, and all you can do is install a vendor’s pre-built package. Though it’s probably too late to populate those volunteer networks and virtual phone banks and to fill the donor and neighborhood block walker lists — supporter databases don’t grow overnight.
Consider it another moment in which online politics has more in common with trench warfare than with blitzkrieg. Most of the time, using the internet for politics is a game of incremental gains, with victories scored one voter/supporter at a time. We’d better get to work.