CES: Blogs, new media reshape politics

But Iraq war, other factors still bigger issues for voters, panel says

Blogs and other new media technologies are having a profound impact on this year's presidential campaign.

But even Democrat Barack Obama can't credit his success in the Iowa caucuses last week and his strong showing in polls ahead of tomorrow's New Hampshire primary entirely to Web 2.0 technologies, a panel of political insiders said at the International CES trade show today.

The panel members, representing both Democrat and Republican views, said the ability to manage online campaigning has helped the candidates in various ways. However, they also said that other factors, especially the war in Iraq, are involved in generating strong interest online in the elections.

2008 International CES

View more stories from 2008 International CES Several panelists noted that Democratic candidates seem to have attracted more young, savvy supporters than the Republicans in this year's race. But Republican Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, reminded the panel that Republicans were seen as more technology-savvy eight years ago when George W. Bush first ran for president.

"Remember the Drudge Report [back then]? People were saying that the Republicans have a hold on us," he said.

Norquist and others said that political parties out of power tend to get more astute about effective means of persuasion, which in the past decade or so has included using the Internet.

The panel also included former U.S. Rep. Dan Glickman, a Democrat and chairman of the Motion Picture Association of America; former U.S. Rep. Charles Bass, a New Hampshire Republican and CEO of the Republic Main Street Partnership; Peter Leyden, director of the New Politics Institute in San Francisco; and Ricardo Reyes, a spokesman from YouTube. CNBC reporter Maria Bartiromo moderated the session.

Glickman said he has long studied what interests people under the age of 40 in politics and government and has found that "clearly, new media has captured their attention." The enormous turnout of young voters, especially Democrats, at the Iowa caucuses bolsters that point, he said. "We have basically opened the door for a whole new generation. ... People are able to yell 'fire' in a crowded theater but are using modern technology," he noted.

Reyes said major television networks were able to use YouTube videos recorded at Iowa caucus meetings, adding a new element to their coverage. But he could not declare a clear winner in the use of new media.

"I think the candidates are all using it differently," Reyes said, noting that Democrat Hillary Clinton has used the online medium to "show her lighter side," while Republican Mitt Romney's organization is a "machine at downloading and uploading videos," with 600 videos uploaded on YouTube so far.

Republican Ron Paul has had "runaway hits," while Republican Mike Huckabee has developed features that have been "great for our audience," Reyes said.

"We'd love to take credit and say the online world [is a major factor in politics this year], but also the issues are close to people's hearts, and it's a unique time with a two-term president and a war going on," Reyes acknowledged. "People now have a whole new way to engage."

Related stories: The Geekiest Candidate Paul, Huckabee lead pack in November Web 2.0 efforts

Copyright © 2008 IDG Communications, Inc.

7 inconvenient truths about the hybrid work trend
Shop Tech Products at Amazon