By Larry Dignan  |  Posted 2004-11-03 Print this article Print

With the 2004 Presidential race in the books, one sizable question remains: Who's going to be the next Howard Dean, in 2008?

: Money and Organizing"> 2006: Money and Organizing

Politics ultimately boils down to data management, says Minor. "This is an incredibly data-driven business," he says.

Indeed, a candidate has to suck in information on supporters, voters, nonvoters – and how the ballot process is conducted in every state. "You've got (to find a politician) who basically has all of this knowledge and understand processes and which data sources to use and apply it against demographic data and process logic," says Minor.

Hughes says 2006 would be a year where any serious candidate would have to "put a server in every locale'' – or use an existing network of hardware and software, such as the Grand Central platform.

Given that an independent couldn't rely on established lists and support from the Democratic or Republican national committees, local involvement and focus on issues would be imperative.

With a few good volunteers and pay-as-you-go infrastructure, a candidate could have what Grand Central's Minor describes as a "fully distributed command center" almost from the get-go; and have enough information at hand to change tactics quickly.

"With this data you could still move fast yet learn from mistakes," says Baan..

The ability to rapidly exchange data and mine it will make unknown candidates viable. In fact, it may harbor them. "The Web is going to limit itself to darkhorses," says Austin.

To break out, that darkhorse will need cash. Lots of it. According to the Federal Election Commission, the Republican and Democratic national committees raised more than $1 billion from Jan. 1 2003 to Oct. 13, 2004.

Through Oct. 13 Bush had a total of $360 million in the coffers for his reelection bid and Kerry had $321 million.

Dean, however, showed that if you can connect people you can raise money online quickly.

In the second quarter of 2003, Dean jumped to the forefront of the Democratic race by raising $3.6 million online out a total of $7.5 million in donations.

"You will need to hit a nerve," says Austin. In Dean's case, antiwar sentiment was the nerve and he raised $51 million all told.

An independent candidate will have to raise his table stakes by at least an order of magnitude.

Business Editor
Larry formerly served as the East Coast news editor and Finance Editor at CNET News.com. Prior to that, he was editor of Ziff Davis Inter@ctive Investor, which was, according to Barron's, a Top-10 financial site in the late 1990s. Larry has covered the technology and financial services industry since 1995, publishing articles in WallStreetWeek.com, Inter@ctive Week, The New York Times, and Financial Planning magazine. He's a graduate of the Columbia School of Journalism.

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