Obama Seen Beating McCain in Web War

The campaign is mailing over 1,000 hosts, who have signed up online, a 10-minute DVD about Obama to show to their guests, and it has posted online instructions for a group discussion about politics and a plan to come back together for a voter registration event.

"All of these different Internet tools lock in," Hughes said. "We use our big list of e-mail supporters to ask them to create the events in the first place; we use our blog structure to get people to promote the events; and then we use the groups in my.barackobama.com and the listserves to engage as many curious people as possible."

Hughes said that the entire Obama campaign — from people who work to get out the vote in the field, to people who bring in campaign money — supports the online effort.

McCain Camp: Dollars, Volunteers, Votes

McCain 's Internet director Michael Palmer concedes Obama has amassed a base of active supporters online. But he's skeptical the online fervor will translate into votes for the presumptive Democratic nominee this November.

"It's undeniable that Barack Obama has done a great job and his supporters online have really been activated and are drawn to him," Palmer said. "But if the activities of these very well-intentioned and tech-savvy people don't have an end game political benefit, then they don't help you at the end of the day."

Palmer said a lot of Obama's online support can be explained by the demographics of people online.

Indeed, the Pew poll found young people ages 18 to 29 can be credited with boosting Obama's online support.

Overall, about 50 percent of all Democrats, Republicans and Independents surveyed said they use the Internet, e-mail or text messages to learn about the presidential campaign and "engage in the political process."

However, wired Democrats outpace online Republicans in their Internet use for political reasons in large part because of the relative youth of people who identify themselves as Democrats.

And among politically active social networking Web site users — sites such as Facebook and MySpace — more Obama supporters than McCain supporters reported using the sites to get campaign or candidate information, start or join a political group, or discover friends' political interests or affiliations.

"At the end of the day, what do we want?" Palmer asked. "Right now it's about three things: It's about getting dollars, getting volunteers, and at the end of the day, it's about getting votes."

Obama Taps Small Donors Online

McCain broke new political ground in his 2000 presidential bid against then-Texas Gov. George W. Bush when his campaign raised more than $6 million online following his New Hampshire primary victory.

"In 2000, John McCain was the one who proved that you could raise a lot of money very quickly online," Rainie said.

With campaign consultant Joe Trippi serving as campaign manager, Gov. Howard Dean's 2004 campaign tapped into MoveOn.org supporter base and raised $41 million in 2003 — breaking President Bill Clinton's previous party record for money raised in one quarter of a fundraising year.

The 2008 campaign, however, has blown the online fundraising door wide open, with Obama leading the way.

Obama has raised over $265 million, almost half from people donating $200 or less, according to the nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics.

McCain has raised almost $97 million, a quarter of that from so-called small donors.

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