The question: “could a frontrunner candidate successfully use the internet or is it inherently a tool of insurgent candidates?”
The answer: YES he/she CAN. I think all future campaigns must use the internet to build a cadre of online activists for fundraising and grassroots organizing. The internet is no longer a tool for the outside candidate.
The 2008 Presidential campaign of Barack Obama crossed a threshhold that empowered millions of ordinary people to take back democracy. The traditional top-down campaign model has been turned upside down.
And it all began with the 2004 longshot campaign of Howard Dean.
Campaign reformer and internet guru Joe Trippi was the main man behind the Vermont governor’s presidential bid. The title of his book, The Revolution Will Not be Televised – Democracy, the Internet, and the Overthrow of Everything sums up the state of presidential politics.
Trippi said he advised Hillary Clinton’s campaign people that she should run as a “change” candidate. She should not take PAC or lobbyist money and say she believes “there are five million women out there who are willing to contribute $100 to change this country and our politics.”
That would have been half a billion dollars if she’d been able to pull it off. According to Trippi, Clinton’s chief strategist thought that was impossible. I wonder if the outcome would have been different if the Clinton campaign had run more of a grassroots campaign.
Of course, it’s not enough for a candidate to have the technological tools and people who know how to use them. A winning campaign requires a candidate who can connect and inspire. With a bottom-up campaign, the BS factor is minimized. You’re tapping into the instincts of the average voter not slick political operatives.
Joe Trippi and his gang got the digital ball rolling by taking an unknown governor from a small northeastern state and making him a contender in the presidential sweepstakes. He is rightfully credited as “the man who reinvented campaigning.”