Monday, July 03, 2006

"U.S. Senate contender uses Internet to battle Lieberman"

From the story in the Boston Globe:
HARTFORD, Conn. --When U.S. Sen. Joe Lieberman recently posted a cartoon on his campaign Web site that took aim at his Democratic challenger Ned Lamont, the online world lit up.

One fast-thinking Lamont supporter quickly posted the ad -- which portrays the candidate as a baby bear being bullied into running for the Senate -- on the popular video-sharing Web site YouTube.

Soon, the 600 people registered to a Lamont YouTube group could create links to the ad on their own Web blogs.

"His angry and desperate ad was seen by 30,000 people," said Tim Tagaris, Lamont's director of Internet communications. "It can start small by one person noticing something. Within hours, it can be seen by 30,000 people, minimal."

The now-infamous "bear ad," which Lieberman also sent by way of e-mail to his supporters, highlights how the Internet has played such a large role in this Democratic primary, which has attracted national attention.

Lamont and Lieberman are mentioned daily in numerous Web blogs, nationally and in Connecticut. Lamont's campaign even credits the liberal blogs with helping to generate much of the initial buzz that surrounded its candidate, an anti-war millionaire from Greenwich with little political experience.

He's seen by some in the blogsphere as one of the best opportunities to bump off an incumbent -- a Democrat who is viewed by some as too cozy with President Bush and too supportive of the Iraq war -- and send a message to the Democratic establishment.

Lamont, who founded a cable television company that has wired college campuses across the country, has embraced the Internet as he battles a three-term incumbent. He often laughingly acknowledges he knew little about blogs before getting involved in his race against Lieberman.

Tagaris and another staffer work full-time on Lamont's online efforts. Besides communicating with bloggers, the two have put up links on the campaign Web site that allow visitors to create a personal fundraising Web page; create, host or promote a Lamont campaign event; write letters to their hometown newspapers; and attend campaign events.

There is also a link that allows Lamont supporters to tell family members and friends about the candidate. The campaign then mails postcards to those people with a personal message from the supporter, telling the recipient about Lamont. The campaign will then send e-mails to the supporter, reminding him or her to call their friends and family about certain events or register as a Democrat before the Aug. 8 primary.

"With Ned, we're providing the tools to really, really involve people and provide them the tools to meaningfully participate in the democratic process," Tagaris said.

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