Howard Dean Campaign Lessons

In The Real Lessons of Howard Dean: Reflections on the First Digital Campaign, Matthew Hindman found significant correlation between the snowball effect of early success (or failure) and determining a campaign’s real-world effectiveness.  This was evident in Dean’s failure during the election after a miserable start, losing both Iowa and New Hampshire.  While the Internet is a phenomenal medium that pushes collaboration without the need to physical congregate as a group.  The capacity for individuals to interact with one another in a digital space like the Internet is crucial for the democratic society of today.  While political Web use remains a complex topic, many researchers have attempted to decipher the proper approach to social media and the new technologies available.  The true question is whether the virtual primary online could ever transition into real-world success.

In Exiting Deanspace, Clay Shirky points out that despite Dean’s campaign failure, Howard Dean remained the best-funded and best-publicized candidate to be the Democratic nominee.  Dean used the Internet in ways never seen before.  From vivid and imaginative uses, Howard Dean managed to successfully create the first ever interactive political candidate website.  The true downfall of the Dean campaign is that “they believed their own press.”  By using marketing statistics and various newspapers as credible sources, the campaign had an excuse for believing Dean was the frontrunner.  Despite constant press and a clear online community behind him, Dean’s campaign was unable to look past the superficial online statistics and see how voters would respond in the real-world.  This is the problem many political candidates face during elections.

The Dean campaign revealed to society the potential behind the Internet.  In regards to collaborating individuals and raising funding, the Internet is a perfect way for many individuals to skip this typically time-consuming aspect of political campaigns.  Society must be aware of the potential to misinterpret statistical information online.  How do we determine who of the citizens are actually considered to be “definite supporters”?  Is it possible to run a political campaign with no TV coverage, simply just utilizing new mediums such as the Internet and social media outlets?

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3 Responses to Howard Dean Campaign Lessons

  1. awildkristenappeared says:

    It’s an interesting point to bring up the future possibility of using only the Internet and other new media outlets to vie for candidacy, but it probably won’t happen completely. I think those tools used in conjunction with mainstream advertisements could work without television (like advertising on Hulu or youtube, for example instead). It would be crazy to see the outcomes of using new media advertising and campaigning versus traditional mediums, considering fewer and fewer people are watching or listening to media in real-time. Though it will be sad to lose those infomercial-esque candidate smears on TV, I look forward to a future in which advertisements are a little less outlandish and a little more cognizant of the use of donator’s money.

  2. snayeon says:

    It is difficult to distinguish the “definite supporters” from the rest of the people who just simply follow and support a candidate. However, candidates might be able to tell who is more serious and going to vote for them by evaluating how many actually actively engage on the Internet and social media sites. For example, a candidate who has 1.5 million twitter followers might look like they have a lot of supporters and is still reaching out to more. However, more than half of the followers might only follow that candidate and not engage online at all. If candidates are able to engage and form a more personal relationship with new “real” followers, then they might be able to get their supporters to actually vote for them. Also, I definitely think it is possible to run a political campaign with no TV coverage. Since more voters are using the Internet and social media for campaign coverage, more and more candidates are investing money for online advertisements and social media. Therefore, candidates are engaging less on traditional media and using new media to campaign and inform voters more about themselves and their views on different issues. Now, instead of TV covering breaking news about the candidates’ campaigns, the role has switched and TV is now addressing the recent news and events that happened online about the progress of the candidates’ campaigns.

  3. erikpeulicke says:

    It’s interesting to think how Dean’s campaign would have worked today. To address the issues of supporters, I’m not sure anyone can actually pinpoint who is a real supporter and who is just going through the motions online. This seems like a case of slacktivism to me. Slacktivism is arguably the reason why Dean couldn’t get the votes he wanted, and there is still no way to ensure that online supporters will go out and vote. Does that mean online support doesn’t matter? Definitely not. Besides the lack of votes, Dean was extremely successful in gaining funding and volunteers. It goes to show that developing a campaign online may still be worthwhile for candidates.

    Even though the internet has found it’s way into the majority of households, I still think it’s essential for campaigns to have television coverage. There’s a certain sense of legitimacy in television news coverage that social media doesn’t have yet. It may be possible to only campaign online in the future, but it may be too early.

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