Could the internet launch a third-party candidate in 2008?
At the L.A. Times, columnist Ronald Brownstein is asking a key question: Given the power of the net to rapidly organize passionate people around a dynamic candidate, could it launch a third-party candidate to the White House?
He quotes Joe Trippi, the dynamo behind the Howard Dean campaign:
Trippi believes an independent presidential candidate who struck a chord could organize support through the Internet just as inexpensively. "Somebody could come along and raise $200 million and have 600,000 people on the streets working for them without any party structure in the blink of an eye," he says.
In part, it's not just about the technology. It's also about the fact that the net rewards parties and candidates that mobilize and excite their core of supporters, the "base". That growing strategic shift may create space for a third-party of the passionate middle:
"We are now moving toward a very dangerous place for both parties," [Trippi] says. "It is becoming much more possible for an independent or third party to emerge because they are leaving so much space in the middle."
Of course, the whole idea starts with candidates with name identification and passionate supporters. Who could fit the bill? Cue Brownstein:
In such an environment, imagine the options available to Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) if he doesn't win the 2008 Republican nomination, and former Democratic Sen. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska, now that he's dropped his flirtation with running for mayor of New York. If the two Vietnam veterans joined for an all-maverick independent ticket, they might inspire a gold rush of online support — and make the two national parties the latest example of the Internet's ability to threaten seemingly impregnable institutions.
Of course, Brownstein blows it one minor aspect of the scenario above: McCain can't run after losing the GOP nomination - as he wouldn't be legal on most state ballots with "sore loser" rules. He'd have to deliberately choose NOT to run in the GOP primaries in order to run third-party.
But other than that, it sounds fairly realistic to me.
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