...the Obama campaign has chosen to forge its own path, rather than rely on a database developed by [Harold] Ickes. The campaign has just the right man to do so: Chris Hughes, a 24-year old co-founder of the phenomenally successful Facebook website, who should rightly join David Plouffe and David Axelrod in a triumvirate that has been key to the Obama campaign.
His battle-tested campaign managers have performed a near miracle: taking a candidate with a minimal experience base, a voting record that shows him to be far to the left of most Americans (including many Democrats), carrying on his back a problematic group of friends and associates, and made him into an American Idol.
The Obama campaign has risen on a wave of support from young people. A substantial share of his base is composed of those under the age of twenty-five. ....
The campaign has responded in exemplary fashion: tapping emerging technologies and internet sites such as the aforementioned Facebook, MySpace, and most significantly, the campaign's own website: Mybarackobama.com -- an interactive website formed under the guidance of Hughes. ....
The Mybarackobama site is the first social network site devoted to a political campaign.
Mybarackobama.com capitalizes on "viral growth": by inviting friends to join you in supporting Barack Obama. Powered by this simple but effective mechanism, the Obama campaign's list of contacts, supporters and donors has grown at an exponential rate with zero incremental costs of "acquiring" them. Why buy mailing lists?
This is a powerful competitive advantage. ....the campaign has also risen on the vast amount of money collected from a fundraising effort that has eclipsed that of all previous campaigns.
....His website has played a key role in this fundraising effort. The campaign is being fueled by a large number of small donations, often sent through Mybarackobama.com; these small donors are a source of funds that are very cost-effective to collect. These donors can be tapped repeatedly for further contributions before they reach federal campaign caps (Clinton's campaign relies on a smaller number of larger donations, and has suffered for this reliance on such big givers when they reach their caps).
There are crucial competitive advantages to Obama's fundraising apparatus that make it a more effective tool than [Harold Ickes'] Catalist. Supporter-entered data can be used to microtarget them in the future with messages tailored to motivate them to support Obama (and other candidates -- see below).
The vast numbers of small donations that have come through the internet and through other fundraising means are often in amounts smaller than $200. This has allowed the campaign to exploit a loophole in campaign finance laws. Contributions smaller than $200 do not have to be itemized or disclosed to Federal campaign authorities. Transparency suffers. The names of these donors never become part of the public domain and thus cannot be accessed by other politicians in the future when they seek financial support for their own campaigns ....
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