Barack Obama is the Democratic Party nominee to take on John McCain in the November US Presidential elections. Obama created history when he became the first black candidate to bid for the most powerful office in the United States and by extension, in the world. He defeated former First Lady Hillary Clinton in a long acrimonious battle where he started out as the underdog. According to most political pundits, he has a pretty good chance of making it to the Oval Office, riding on his campaign of change and his charisma.
However, there is one more element that contributed to Obama’s surprise upset—the Internet. Obama understood Web2.0 and the power of social networking. He relied more on grass root donors and voluntary campaigners rather than going by the traditional route of corporate donors and paid lobbyists. His Web site, www.barackobama.com was the nerve centre of his campaign, greater in importance than any brick and mortar office. He had a social networking component on the site which at the last count has more than 850,000 members. Most of these people are really committed and they usually have the domino effect of turning even more people to his cause. Besides, with thousands of videos on YouTube panning Obama, he has captured the imagination of the youth like no other political leader has.
It’s not that Obama had it all easy. His racial background is the material for many conservative led slurs on the Internet. Here too, Obama has things all figured out. Aware of how a negative story can get out of hand if it got the right number of eyeballs, the Obama campaign has a dedicated war-room that scours the Internet for such stories and promptly takes various measures to put fires out. The campaign has also hired a Web relationship management company, which maintains the official Web site, counsels the campaign on strategies to broaden his mass appeal and reach his message out to more people. The Internet has enabled Obama to raise funds of more than $200 million, a record. He is flush with so much money that he has refused to take state funding worth millions of dollars for the final campaign and has donated funds to the nearly empty coffers of his bitter party rival Hillary Clinton.
The current US presidential campaign has showed that a David can beat Goliath even against overwhelming odds, and that too using unconventional campaign tools like the Internet. We only have to wait and see if Obama manages to keep the fascination levels high and keeps going until he gets to the White House.