Do the Democrats Rule the Web?

Time Magazine reporters Micahel Scherer and Jay Newton-Small seem to think so, or at a minimum imply it in a recent article. As evidence Scherer and Small highlight how the Internet has facilitated the grass roots campaigning of a Pennsylvania couple Tom and Mary Bashore and compare the success of online fundraising for McCain, Obama, and Clinton.

Without passing judgment on how the candidate’s web endeavors actually fare compared to each other, the article’s evidence for its suggestion that Obama’s online success stems primarily from the quality of his website or that this online success “could spell trouble for John McCain come November” does not adequately address other possibilities.

It seems probable that Obama supporters have more reason to contribute now than later in the campaign. His nomination, while likely, still remains uncertain. Calls from the Obama campaign for a pressing need of volunteers and donors seem more credible and supporters probably feel a sense of urgency: if they don’t contribute or volunteer now, they may not get the chance to vote for him in November.

McCain supporters are certain that he will be the Republican nominee. The need for volunteers or contributions now does not carry urgency.

Also, without the fervor that accompanies supporting a “team” in a struggle (as between Clinton and Obama), McCain supporters aren’t operating under the same incentives as their Obama (or Clinton) counterparts.

The article also doesn’t do a particularly better job of showing why success in online fundraising will translate in an election victory. Judging by the Republican primaries, where Ron Paul’s ability to mobilize support through the Internet was extraordinarily disproportionate to his success at the polls, dexterous use of the Internet may only help at the margins. Of course, its possible that success at the margins may be enough in November, but the article did not really go further than to point out a disparity in online fundraising.

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