Obama White House to Marshal Online Army

"The online tools in My.BarackObama will live on," Hughes wrote. "Barack Obama supporters will continue to use the tools to collaborate and interact. Our victory on Tuesday night has opened the door to change, but it's up to all of us to seize this opportunity to bring it about."

Obama organizers appear to have considered future possibilities for its contact lists from the start. The privacy policy at BarackObama.com includes this sentence: "We may also make personal information available to organizations with similar political viewpoints and objectives, in furtherance of our own political objectives."

No other president has had an engaged online army participate in his campaign the way Obama has. His supporters -- who communicated with the campaign via e-mail, text-messaging and social networking sites such as Facebook -- provided Obama with an enormous organizing boost, a way to donate money, register voters, set up rallies and run get-out-the-vote operations.

<2>Obama Can't Push Online Fans Too Far

But taking a sprawling, nebulous network of supporters who signed up for a political campaign and getting them involved in the nitty-gritty of policymaking is no easy task.

Obama could wind up disappointing millions of backers who believe they have a stake in his presidency. Some members of Congress might balk if they believe they're being pressured by Obama's supporters, when they were elected by their own constituents.

Obama's challenge will be to keep the energy level high without the natural enthusiasm surrounding a campaign, and to keep his supporters together despite inevitable disappointments, said Peter Daou, who managed online operations for Sen. Hillary Clinton's unsuccessful presidential campaign.

"It's finding a balance out of the White House: 'You guys got us here, now we need your help,'" Daou said. "There's definitely no way it's going to be used the same way it was during a campaign."

Obama has to be careful about how he enlists his supporters, Sifry said. Push them too far, or in directions they don't want to go, and the forces he's harnessed could turn on him, he said.

"He has immense power right now. They're ready to do whatever he asks," Sifry said. "But only up to a point. At a certain point, what he asks has to be what they want. ... Armies get commanded, but this is a network, you can't command them. You can try. It won't work for very long."

Phil Musser, a Republican operative who is helping to lead an effort to expand his party's online organizing, said, "He's accountable to this e-mail list fundamentally."

"I'd expect them to build on their tactics of engaging the citizenship," Musser said. "We're going to be up against that out of the box."

Obama aides have given few hints as to how they plan to use new technologies when the new administration takes over. But they have made clear to supporters and influential allies that they don't intend to let their online enthusiasm wither until, say, the 2010 congressional elections.

The 4.3 million member MoveOn.org has committed its resources to helping advance Obama's agenda, in efforts organizers said they hope will work in concert with an Obama political operation.

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