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Election Time!

Your assignment for next week’s class is pretty straightforward: Pay really close attention to the election. There’s a wealth of information and resources coming down to the wire and I want you to read as widely and as much as you can. For your blog entry, on election night find somewhere to watch the returns come in and sit down in front of your computer (or, if you’re partying, make some notes for later) and watch how the election plays out online. Which sites did you use to follow the election results? What signs of the internet’s impact do you see in the traditional media’s coverage? Do you see bloggers on TV? Do you see reporters turning to the web for information?

Think back to four years ago, where are you turning to information on Tuesday night that you didn’t use in 2004? Your Twitter feed? Your iPhone? Tuesday night should be a good case study for you in just how much the world has changed in just four years.

As for election night itself, here’s the Washingtonian’s guide to election night parties.

Also: Don’t forget that your blog needs to be entirely caught up by Wednesday’s class. If you’re missing an entry, your blog report, or a weekly report, it needs to be done by Wednesday or it won’t be accepted.


Weekly Report

Check out Fernando’s weekly report over at his blog.


So there’s this website where you can watch video online (it’s kind of like a television but it’s on your computer). The site is call YouTube. Get it?

We’re going to spend next week’s class debating and discussing YouTube with the man who invented politics on YouTube: EmergencyCheese.

Take a look at this piece I did this fall rounding up the most important videos of the election cycle.

Blog this week about your favorite political video of the cycle (either from my list or one of your own choosing) and come to class with questions for James.

Weekly Report

10 most important and relevant items of the week are follows (in no order or chronology):

1.) Debate Day! Obama and McCain butt heads in their final debate appearance. The long awaited confrontation between Obama and McCain over William Ayers didn’t make as big of a splash as either candidate hoped for.

2.) Joe the Plumber from Ohio becomes a media sensation, after asking Barack Obama why he wanted to hike taxes on small business owners. McCain repeatedly mentions him in the debate, prompting a media storm that follows Joe back to Ohio. Thanks to the work of some intrepid reporters, it surfaced that Joe wasn’t exactly a licensed plumber, didn’t make 250,000 a year, wasn’t in a position to buy his employer’s business, and has a few outstanding tax liens against him. Oh, and a suspended driver’s license. Oh, and he voted Republican in the primary. Jonah Goldberg, Michelle Malkin and other conservative commentators pointed out that it was unfair to wage a full-scale media blitz against a private citizen. The New Republic pointed out that Malkin did the same thing when Democrats used a young boy to as a campaign prop to advance the S-CHIP legislation

3.) McCain/RNC robo-calls tying Barack Obama to domestic terrorist William Ayers and ACORN are reported in the blogosphere. GOP senator Susan Collins goes on record as condeming them, while McCain defended the calls on Fox News Sunday.

4.) The mania over alleged “voter fraud” continues. Citizen journalists at Palestra.net, a student muckraking site affiliated with Fox, uncovered that a group of out-of-staters had set up shop in Ohio and were registering voters. Michelle Malkin accused them of breaking the spirit of Ohio’s voter registration laws, and the story made it all the way to the New York Post. Ohio democrats retaliated by launching their own complaint against a group of Republicans performing essentially the same job, and who also cast ballots in Ohio.

5.) Colin Powell endorses Barack Obama for President, on Meet the Press. Powell had previously given the maximum allowable contribution to McCain’s campaign when it stalled in the summer of 2007, while McCain had previously called Powell the greatest living hero during the 2000 election cycle. Rush Limbaugh says it was totally about race, asking “what inexperienced white liberals has Powell endorsed recently?

6.) The Obama campaign announces that it has raised $150 million dollars in September, doubling its August totals and shattering all records. Throughout the cycle, Obama has raised more than half a billion dollars in campaign contributions. McCain claims that Obama’s fundraising has broken the public financing system forever. On the Congressional side, the DNC took out a $15 million loan on behalf of the DSCC to push last-minute funds into competitive Senate races, to give the Democrats a fighting chance of capturing 60 seats in the Senate (a filibuster-proof majority).

7.) Reality and comedy collide for one brief moment, when Sarah Palin appears on SNL. This season’s ratings are amongst the best the best in 14 years, undoutbedly thanks to Tina Fey’s doppleganger of Sarah Palin.. As a result of the popularity of the show, NBC has seen a spike in web traffic, as more and more users seek clips on the Internet rather than watch the live broadcast.

8.) Patriotism comes to the forefront, as several prominent Republicans essentially accuse the Democrats of being un-American Congresswoman Michele Bachmann causes a minor stir when she suggests that Barack Obama has un-American views, and goes on to suggest that the media should do an expose on other Members of Congress with un-American views. She later claims she essentially walked into a trap that host Chris Mathews cleverly laid. Her opponent immediately saw a huge spike in fundraising after her comments hit the blogosphere. Meanwhile, Sarah Palin apologized for her comment that she enjoyed spending time in the ‘pro-America’ parts of the country. Finally, Congressman Robin Hayes makes an utter buffoon of himself when he claims that liberals ‘hate real Americans that work. Hayes denied the accusations at first, but recanted and apologized when audio of his comments surfaced. His unfortunate comments happened immediately after he told the fired-up crowd, “make sure we don’t say something stupid, make sure we don’t say something we don’t mean.”

9.) Barack Obama wins the Chicago Tribune endorsement. While the paper is is hometown daily, it also has never ever ever endorsed a Democrat for President in its 100+ year history. Twice it endorsed third-party candidates (Theodore Roosevelt and Horace Greeley), but it has never once endorsed a Democratic candidate for President (not even Kennedy! Not even FDR!).

10.) Barack Obama suspends his campaign just two weeks before the election in order to spend time with his ailing grandmother, who raised him and put him through high school while his mother was still in Indonesia. The blogosphere debates whether it was a risky move, and whether it would be “classy” for McCain to do the same for the time being.

The Final Debate – compiled by Katie K.

1.   Debate watching was taken to a whole new level at the Corcoran by Sosolimited, a group of three MIT graduates who have presented “remixes” of each presidential debate using software to digitally split apart and reassemble information from the debate before live audiences.


2.   The Obama campaign got the debate started early, releasing their talking points ahead of the debate.  And blogs seized on them when coverage from the MSM looked a little too familiar.


3.   Snap polls showed Obama going three-for-three in the debate series.  Conservatives were inspired that McCain was still fighting, while liberal bloggers went to town with the “angry” McCain that Obama’s campaign quickly turned into an ad.


4.   Your average Joe?  John McCain made Ohio plumber Joe Wurzelbacher the star of the debate when he mentioned him 21 times to attack Barack Obama on taxes.  Before Joe even knew what happened, he had his own campaign merchandise, hundreds of new friends on Facebook, remixes on YouTube, the most searched name on Twitter, a Wikipedia entry, and Katie Couric on the phone.


5.   Bloggers were the first to burst the Joe bubble, discovering that he’s not exactly Joe, not exactly a plumber, not exactly caught up on his taxes, and not exactly a victim under Obama’s tax plan.  And a week of polls showed that Joe did not help McCain.


6.   Two local Portland, Oregon radio hosts used the Internet to come to Joe’s rescue, launching, www.savejoetheplumber.net to help Wurzelbacher pay back his taxes.  On Monday night, the hosts informed Joe they’d not only the $1,200 Joe the Plumber needed to pay back his taxes, but also the $500 he’ll need to get his plumber’s license.


7.   Wired broke news that, just when you thought we’d seen the end of Joe, the McCain campaign made him viral, inviting supporters to create 30 second videos of themselves explaining why they are “Joe the Plumber.”  The campaign will feature the winner in a televised ad.


8.   At CBS, Katie Couric continued her interesting use of videos and online content to cover the final debate.


9.   Tech President reported that an SEIU official “tweeted”  that the Google AdSense ad he bought for the term “Joe the Plumber” got almost 40,000 impressions.  This followed a Washington Post article explaining the science behind choosing keyword search phrases to determine advertising buys, and how both the Obama and McCain campaigns are spending millions on this new “art” in politics.  


10.   The New York Times used the final presidential debate to highlight the new trend of former campaign operatives using blogs to air their thoughts.   Elsewhere on the Web, Reason Magazine highlighted VoterWatch’s 2008 Presidential Debates Project that brought real-time blogging, commenting, linking, fact checking, and interaction to the presidential debate. 


11.   The American Prospect finally explained just what those squiggly lines on CNN mean, and the blogs caught what happens when even the anchor doesn’t understand them.


Bonus Item:  CNN political analyst Jeffrey Toobin was caught by the camera checking his Facebook account during the debate.


Weekly report

Compiled by Arin:

1. Wired Magazine put together a scorecard on how John McCain and Barack Obama rate on technology. Wired narrowed the tech issues down to five areas they thought presented challenges and opportunities important to America's future. The five areas were: 1) Broadband, 2) H1B issues, 3) Investment in green tech, 4) Net neutrality, and 5) Spectrum. Obama fared better as he earned two As, two Bs, and one C. McCain was given one B+, 2 Bs, and 2 Ds.

2. In a piece on HuffingtonPost.com, Zack Exley, one of the country's top New Political Organizers, praises the Obama campaign's "New Organizers." Exley says that the scope and success of organization at the neighborhood level is something netroots-oriented campaigners have tried to achieve for more than a decade. Exley says the Obama teams have mixed new and old methods and revolutionized organizing at a local level.

3. Dipity.com, a website that organizes articles, pictures, videos, blog posts and everything else you can find on the web into one spot, has put together a pretty cool and very handy election center. The center allows you to see every single picture, video, blog post, et al., put out by the Obama and McCain campaigns on a neat timeline. You can even embed widgets from the campaign of your choice on any website. It seems like a good tool to use for our class specifically.

4. In perhaps one of the most interesting and out-of-the-box advertising ideas has been undertaken by the Obama campaign. The Illinois Senator's campaign has officially placed an ad on the XBox 360 racing game Burnout Paradise. The ad amounts to a virtual billboard that game players will drive by while racing. You can see a screen-grab and read more about it here. Not sure how much this will help his campaign, but it's definitely a new way of doing things.

5. David Kernell, the 20-year-old University of Tennessee student who hacked into Sarah Palin's email account was, indicted by a federal grand jury. Kernell, the son of Tennessee state representative Mike Kernell, was indicted on one felony count of violating the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act. His trial has been set for Dec. 16.

6. Wondering how much of a tax cut you'll get if Obama is elected President? You can now find out on his campaign website by answering a few questions.

7. McCain FINALLY took a stance and defended smears on Obama at a campaign rally last Friday in Wisconsin. One man said he was scared about raising a child under an Obama presidency and another woman said that Obama was an Arab. Kudos to McCain for finally stepping up, but what does this say about some of his conservative base? Note: I'm purposefully linking to a conservative blog on this one.

8. The Alaska Legislature found that Palin abused power when she pressured subordinates to fire her former brother-in-law, a state trooper. However, they also concluded that she didn't break any laws.

9. Although the Obama campaign won't have to turn in its fund raising numbers from September to the Federal Election Committee until Oct. 20, The Fix thinks Obama may have raised $100 million or more for the month. Chris Cillizza points to the $21 million the campaign spent on ads for just the first week of October, among other things, as a reason to believe Obama shattered all kinds of fund raising records in September.

10. The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) is being investigated in at least 14 states, several of them swing states, for voter registration irregularities. Pajamas media has put together "The Complete Guide to ACORN Voter Fraud." It's a pretty good read if you're out of the loop on why ACORN has come under serious scrutiny with the election less than one month away.


I hope everyone enjoyed the debate last night—what did you think? Was Obama flustered? McCain crotchety? Who seemed more presidential? As my hero Marc Ambinder wrote, “McCain and Obama tied on points. Maybe McCain even won on points. Solid policy answers, tough policy attacks, solid command of the facts. The first and last thirty minutes were among McCain’s best. But debates aren’t usually won on points. They’re won on valence and visuals. Emotions and body language.”

We’ll know in the coming days whether the debate moved the needle, but it’s worth noting that 538 has downgraded Obama in electoral votes since last as a number of polls show a slight move towards McCain—although all those polls predate yesterday’s Dow plunge and last night’s debate.

Next week’s class will feature Michael Silberman, so if you haven’t read his chapter in the Mousepads book, make sure to do so for next week. As with Kevin Anderson, we’ll probably have Michael go for an hour or so and then talk about the assigned topic: fundraising. Make sure to get Trippi’s book under your belt for next week, although you might want to revisit it for the December 3rd class where we’ll have him in. For your blog post this week, read these articles: here, here, here, and here. Think about the implications of all this and make a prediction: Will a 2012 candidate be able to ONLY accept small online donations?

I also wanted to repost the weekly report schedule for the rest of the semester just a friendly reminder:

Week 8: Katie K.
Week 8: Byron

Week 9: Fernando

Week 10: Matt
Week 10: Elisha

Week 11: Brian
Week 12: Molly
Week 13: Katy R.
Week 14: Paul