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Web Tools Help to Reshape ’08 Campaign Trail

A new report from the Pew Internet and American Life Project finds that a record-breaking 46 percent of Americans have used the Internet, e-mail or cell phone text messaging to get news about the campaigns. Analysts examine how new Web-based tools are expanding the campaign trail.

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    Forty-six percent of all Americans have used the Internet as well as e-mail and cell phones this year to get campaign news, to share their views, and mobilize others. Is the so-called Internet campaign — much talked about in previous presidential years — finally upon us?

    In fact, 35 percent of Americans say they have watched online political videos, according to a new study by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. Thirty-nine percent of online Americans have used the Internet to dig deeper, to access unfiltered campaign materials, which include video of candidate debates, speeches and announcements, as well as position papers and speech transcripts.

    And not surprisingly, 33 percent of younger voters have gotten political news and information from social networking sites, like Facebook and MySpace. Especially for presumptive Democratic nominee Barack Obama, the 'net has been a boon to fundraising. More than $100 million, or 40 percent of his money, has come from online contributions.


    Talent on loan from God…


    What talk radio did for Republicans, the Internet is now doing in large part for Democrats: technology as a megaphone to get the word out and as a gathering place to draw people in. The campaigns themselves have taken to the 'net to set the record straight. Just last week, the Obama campaign unveiled a section of its site called "Stop the Smear," created to challenge attacks on him, his policies, or his wife.

    SEN. HILLARY CLINTON (D), New York: We all remember Bobby Kennedy was assassinated in June in California.

    JUDY WOODRUFF But high-profile campaign snafus have also grown out of Web-first mentions. The Hillary Clinton reference in South Dakota to the assassination of Robert Kennedy originated on a Web stream video of an editorial board meeting.

    REV. JEREMIAH WRIGHT, Former Head of Trinity United Church of Christ: No, no, no, not God bless America. God damn America.


    The back story on Obama's former minister, Jeremiah Wright, blew up on the Web.


    I'm white. I'm entitled.


    As did the story about the minister, Michael Pfleger, who mocked Hillary Clinton in Obama's former church, helping to prompt Obama to leave the church.

    Presumptive nominee John McCain had some run-ins with the Web, as well. His association with a controversial minister, John Hagee, who said Hitler was fulfilling God's will, also had a long life on the Web. His spontaneous singing of "Bomb, Bomb Iran" was also just a Google search away. It caused his campaign serious headaches.

    Obama's comments at a San Francisco fundraiser in which he said small-town voters have become bitter over job losses and that they cling to guns or religion were first published by a blogger. The event became a central narrative of the campaign heading into the important Pennsylvania primary.

    More recently, the story that veteran political hand Jim Johnson, who was named by Obama to vet potential vice presidential running mates, had some questionable mortgage bank ties broke in the Wall Street Journal last week, but immediately went viral on the blog-o-sphere. Johnson stepped down from that post.

    Youth mobilization groups have combined old-fashioned pavement-pounding with the new ways of the wired world, from "Bring Your Own Phone" to phone banks to text-the-vote announcements.


    We're giving you, the young voter, a chance to pose questions…


    And through the 'net, forums such as the one co-sponsored by MySpace and MTV and the CNN YouTube debates have allowed people a way to get questions directly to the candidates.