Campaigns Stay on the Web — and On-Message

The Internet is changing the way presidential hopefuls connect with voters. It also allows candidates to bypass the press corps — and disseminate a tightly controlled message.

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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

While the president gets ready to address the nation, the list of Democrats who want his job in 2008 keeps growing.

NPR's senior analyst Daniel Schorr is keeping track of who's announced and who's about to, as well as what's new this campaign season.

DANIEL SCHORR: If you were out of the country last week, you would have missed three Democratic hats being tossed into an already crowded ring - Senators Clinton and Barack Obama and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson. Along with Senators Joseph Biden and Chris Dodd, former Senator John Edwards, Alaska former Senator Mike Gravel, Representative Dennis Kucinich of Ohio and former Governor Tom Vilsack of Iowa, that makes eight potential Democratic candidates two years before the first primary vote is cast.

Running for president has become more attractive to Democrats than it used to be for two reasons. One is the sinking popularity of President Bush presenting an easy target. The Republican nominee, whoever that may be, can expect to be saddled by Democrats with the whole Bush record, most especially the Iraq war. What also makes running more attractive is the Internet, which substitutes podcasts for TV commercials that may eventually save money to be used elsewhere. What it does immediately is provide a way to talk directly to voters, avoiding the standard news conference and the tough minded reporters' questions.

It is noteworthy that Senator Clinton made her announcement on Saturday morning by Internet and her campaign organization said that the result was supportive messages to her Web site at a rate of 100 a minute. Now, she's holding what she calls a national dialogue during three evenings on the Web.

Senator Obama also used the Internet for his announcement, and his podcast ranks higher on iTunes than the New York Times and NPR. And so it may be that the war and the Web may help to change the presidential campaign. Whether for good or for ill, that remains to be seen.

This is Daniel Schorr.

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