Seeding the Online Grassroots
For all the political junkies out there who, like me, are already obsessed with the 2008 presidential race, it's interesting to watch how the would-be candidates are working to grow online grassroots networks.
Two examples from the potential Democratic field arrived in The Fix's e-mail box in the last 24 hours -- one from Indiana Sen. Evan Bayh's All-America PAC and the other from retired Gen. Wesley Clark's Securing America PAC.
Bayh's e-mail calls on supporters to offer their opinions about what specifically is wrong with the political culture in Washington and to offer ideas on how to fix it, a subtle move designed to distance Bayh, who is currently in his second Senate term, from being portrayed as an "Inside the Beltway" lawmaker.
"I am curious to find out what you think is wrong with Washington and what you believe the solution to be," Bayh writes. "I believe that at least part of the solution lies in bringing the American people back into the governing process."
The e-mail doubles as an indictment of the Bush administration, a bit of red meat for Democrats who may see Bayh as too moderate to truly motivate the party's liberal base. Bayh rattles off a list of failures in "George Bush's Washington" that includes the push for drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, support for "unfair trade agreements" and a lack of commitment to "make the homeland as secure as it can be."
This survey-style appeal by Bayh follows in the footsteps of a similar strategy being employed by Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack -- another potential 2008 presidential candidate. While the candidates are undoubtedly interested in the responses to their queries, the real prize is harvesting personal information (phone numbers, e-mail and home addresses etc.) that can be used to make further financial pitches down the line.
Wesley Clark's latest e-mail makes a pitch for a congressional candidate close to his heart. The message touts the candidacy of Eric Massa, who is running for against freshman Rep. Randy Kuhl (R) in New York's 29th district. Massa served as a military aide for Clark and was an active supporter of Clark's short-lived 2004 presidential campaign. "He was with me during some very challenging times -- and now I am standing with him in his race for Congress," writes Clark.
As part of his fundraising appeal for Massa, Clark, like Bayh, calls the current climate in Washington a "disgrace." He adds: "Indictments, bribery, investigations, leaks, out of control spending, and strategic blunders are the hallmarks of the one party power structure in place there."
Clark's e-mail on behalf of Massa is likely the first of many that potential 2008 presidential candidates -- Democrats and Republicans alike -- will send to their backers between now and next November's midterm elections. Watch to see who is the most active in using their e-mail list to help downballot candidates and who is the most successful in terms of raw dollars.
UPDATE, 2:55 p.m. ET: Less than an hour after writing this post, another e-mail from a Democrat eyeing the 2008 race arrived in The Fix's overflowing inbox.
This missive came from Delaware Sen. Joe Biden (D), who was making a fundraising appeal for his Unite Our States leadership PAC. "The 2006 elections are right around the corner and America has a chance to make a powerful statement about the direction of the country," Biden writes. The best way to do that? Why give to Unite Our States, of course!
"The best thing I can do for Democratic candidates is to travel the country campaigning on their behalf and bring our message of strength, hope and unity to every competitive race," Biden adds in the message.
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