Peer-to-Peer Politics 2008

Who will be the next candidate to harness a new round of computer services and change campaigning?

Who can organize grassroots support online and translate that into an upset of the traditional two-party model?

Is there some 28-year-old technical wunderkind who started a campaign Nov. 3, on behalf of an as-yet-unknown independent candidate, who will be promoted, funded and backed by petitions through the Web? And what technologies will be harnessed in 2008 for the first time?

Dean’s campaign — with its grassroots use of blogs, meeting setup services and fund-raising Web sites — established a template that winning candidates copied, after Dean opened his mouth the wrong way and imploded.

Democratic nominee John F. Kerry took Dean’s everyone-can-give-$50 playbook and matched incumbent George W. Bush’s big donations dollar for dollar.

Bush used email and meet-ups to rally support among his base, make it easy to write letters to the editor and volunteer to help out on the campaign trail.

“Dean didn’t work out, but a candidate with ability and a good online organization could become president,” says David Hughes, who created the first electronic bulletin board on local politics, known as Roger’s Bar, in 1981.

“Can an independent candidate make a viable run for 2008? I’d give it qualified yes, but it’s a short period of time.”

The 76-year-old Korea and Vietnam war veteran also established the Ross Perot for President bulletin board in 1992 — and says it’s just a matter of time before someone wins the White House with a wholly Web-based campaign.

What’s next?

If someone can figure out how to create a Web service that helps an independent candidate secure the signatures and survive the minutiae of registering to be on the ballot in all 50 states, the day will be hastened when a Republican or Democratic party machine is no longer necessary. Local, state and national campaigns could be conducted through electronically-based organization.

Indeed, campaigns wholly organized and conducted by organizations stitched together by standardized electronic services is not a farfetched idea, say digital entrepreneurs contacted by Baseline such as Dallas Mavericks owner and entrepreneur Mark Cuban, Baan Software and Cordys Software founder Jan Baan and Halsey Minor, founder of CNET Networks and CEO of Grand Central Communications, which provides a platform for building custom, far-flung applications that combine disparate sources of data and services.