Bob Schieffer of CBS News made a good point on The Charlie Rose Show last week. He said that successful presidents have all skillfully exploited the dominant medium of their times. The Founders were eloquent writers in the age of pamphleteering. Franklin D. Roosevelt restored hope in 1933 by mastering radio. And John F. Kennedy was the first president elected because of his understanding of television.
Will 2008 bring the first Internet president? Last time, Howard Dean and later John Kerry showed that the whole idea of "early money" is now obsolete in presidential politics. The Internet lets candidates who catch fire raise millions in small donations practically overnight. That’s why all the talk of Hillary Clinton’s "war chest" making her the front runner for 2008 is the most hackneyed punditry around. Money from wealthy donors remains the essential ingredient in most state and local campaigns, but "free media" shapes the outcome of presidential races, and the Internet is the freest media of all.
No one knows exactly where technology is taking politics, but we’re beginning to see some clues. For starters, the longtime stranglehold of media consultants may be over. In 2008, any presidential candidate with half a brain will let a thousand ad ideas bloom (or stream) online and televise only those that are popular downloads. Deferring to "the wisdom of crowds" will be cheaper and more effective.
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