Candidates look for an edge

Characterized as something of a luddite, John McCain attempted to change that image by relaunching the McCainSpace social network in late August.

The newly designed site provides a hub for supporters to post blogs, add comments to forums and post videos related to McCain’s run for the presidency. McCain himself welcomes users to the site in an online video where he explains the importance of the Internet in this election cycle.

“Social networking has given people from every corner of the world the ability to connect and share ideas,” McCain notes in the video. “Sign up, check back every day, and meet up with other supporters just like you.”

Reaction to the redesigned social network was mixed. Nick O’Neill, a blogger for Social Times, for example, noted that while McCain has taken some jabs in the press for his lack of Internet savvy, the updated social network shows that his campaign has a strong understanding of the new technologies.

“The new portal provides a much needed upgrade to what previously existed,” O’Neill noted. “As the campaign heats up, it appears that both candidates are taking it to the Web. While it’s one area that Obama used to dominate, it appears that the McCain campaign is trying to shake things up a little. It will definitely be interesting to watch how the next few months play out.” However, TechCrunch’s Erick Schonfeld questioned why both campaigns feel the need to create separate social networks with MySpace and Facebook available.

“The site is aimed at ‘Generation08,’ presumably the young’uns that the campaign is having a hard time reaching,” he added. “The new McCainSpace design itself is functional enough, giving McCain supporters a central place to discuss election issues via blogs, forums, videos, and photos. But I’m not sure who the site is supposed to appeal to other than lonely Young Republicans who don’t have any friends on Facebook.”


Soon after McCain redesigned his site, Barack Obama’s campaign rolled out a new online voter contact tool aimed at providing supporters with a virtual peek into the campaign’s voter registration database.

Called ‘Neighbour-to-Neighbour’, the tool provides users with the names and addresses of neighbours that the campaign has targeted as undecided voters. The tool provides a script for users to jumpstart conversations with neighbours on the list, a customized flyer for distribution, an online interface to report on the results of their outreach efforts and support and training, the campaign’s Web site noted.

“You can go door-to-door or make calls at any time that’s convenient for you,” the campaign Web site notes. “There’s no one who knows your community better than you do, so help us build support for Barack Obama and this movement for change by beginning in your own neighbourhood.”

Indeed, this reporter received a list of 25 names and addresses of undecided voters within less than a mile of her home address when testing the tool. The tool advised that those names would not been assigned to anyone else for canvassing and asked for an online progress report of the neighbourhood canvassing.

Nancy Scola, a blogger at TechPresident, projected that the tool could be an “under-the-radar killer app“ in the waning days of the election.

“The personal over-the-back-fence approach was one that reaped dividends for the Bush-Cheney campaigns of both ‘00 and ‘04,” she noted.

“Campaigns have dabbled in putting walk lists and contact response forms online before, but in scale and ambition Neighbour-to-Neighbour is singular. It remains to be seen, though, if my neighbour Sally isn’t a bit freaked out that I found out on the Internet that she’s female, 47, and still on the fence about who to vote for.” – Heather Havenstein

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