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Democrat Howard Dean strikes an online chord with campaign

He's used the Web to build a genuine community linked by politics

By Todd R. Weiss
July 3, 2003 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - No national political candidate would dare think of running a campaign today without using the Internet, but none of them is apparently using the Web as effectively right now as Democratic presidential hopeful Howard Dean of Vermont.
On Monday, Dean's campaign raised an amazing $802,083 online in one day, pushing his fund raising above $7 million for the quarter that began April 1 and putting him in the top tier of candidates seeking the Democratic presidential nomination.
The amount of money his campaign brought in online, and his use of the Web to draw in supporters, keep them involved and organize them locally, is winning plaudits from analysts and others who say his is the first candidacy to put the Internet to full use.
"He's really leveraging the medium, putting it in the hands of the people," said Carol Baroudi, an analyst at Baroudi Bloor in Arlington, Mass., and a co-author of The Internet for Dummies. "This medium is the most dynamic medium available. It's when I want it, it's there, and it keeps getting refreshed."
The Dean Web site can be shared by people who can voice their opinions and connect with others, both online and off-line, she said, adding, "What he's done is substantiated a community."
The Web site's home page urges supporters to click to "stay connected," to "get involved" and to contribute. It also includes an official Web log to keep supporters informed about campaign activities and to provide easy access to local Dean "meet up" groups that can work on the campaign locally. As with other presidential campaign Web sites, there's information about the candidate, from his background as a physician to his term as governor in Vermont. And there are position papers, press releases and other traditional means of helping voters learn more.
But in something like a presidential campaign site, design matters, and Dean's designers got it right, Baroudi said. "It's very inviting. I think they did a stunning job. For one thing, I can find everything I want to find," she said.
"To me, this is hopeful because it has a way of reaching out and touching people in a way that can't be controlled yet," Baroudi said. "[President] Bush has been putting all of his money into owning the media, and this is a medium he doesn't own."
Nicco Mele, the webmaster for the Burlington, Vt.-based Dean campaign, said the site was designed to be an extension and expression of the candidate and to help people become personally involved in what has been dubbed a "people-powered campaign."
The site is

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