Tiny Town Blazes New Campaign Trail, Using Social Network

Hickman's victory was largely due to the efforts of Dixon, a politically passionate Columbus native who is now a first-year scholarship law student at the top-rated New York University School of Law. The son of two factory workers, Hickman, 24, is a Democratic activist, the first person in his family to go to college and an Edwards supporter. (He's also running an internet campaign to unseat Senate minority leader Mitch McConnell, a Kentucky Republican.)

Dixon began his campaign in May with an e-mail blast to his friends and acquaintances asking them to join Eventful to demand an Edwards visit to Columbus. He followed up by posting the request on Facebook and MySpace.

On Eventful, Dixon described his hometown this way: "Columbus, Kentucky is a small town in Western Kentucky that boasts a population of 229 people and is about a 50-minute drive from the closest McDonalds. Like many rural communities across the south, job loss in the face of rising healthcare costs and education costs have crippled the economy."

A visit from Edwards would provide a rare opportunity to highlight important issues facing rural America, he wrote.

"We want to see John Edwards come to real rural America and address the problems we face and hear his plan for revitalizing small American communities like ours!" he wrote on this Eventful post.

Dixon says that Facebook was particularly useful in spreading the word because he had about 800 "friends" in that network whom he knew personally through high school, college and work. He also wrote about his effort on the popular liberal blog, DailyKos.

Dixon also wants to use the visit to dispel the notion that all Southern states would automatically vote Republican. Bush carried Hickman County with 60 percent of the votes in 2004.

So far in this campaign however, state residents' financial donations to the presidential candidates have flowed primarily into the coffers of the Democratic candidates, with Illinois Sen. Barack Obama and New York Sen. Hillary Clinton in the lead, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.

The event has also provided welcome publicity to Edwards, who is running on an anti-poverty platform and who trails both 2008 presidential campaign rivals Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama according to several national polls.

Several local newspapers ran stories and editorials about the Eventful contest and about Dixon. Wolf Blitzer's "Situation Room" on CNN also spotlighted the contest several times over the summer. And when Edwards visits Columbus in October, at least one national news show is expected to show up to cover the event.

Bruce Cunningham, a letter carrier for the U.S. Postal Service in Columbus, said he is looking forward to hearing Edwards speak about the Iraq war, education, affordable high-speed internet access and health care. Columbus currently doesn't have access to broadband. Cunningham and his family have a dial-up connection.

"People can't afford (broadband) in this area," he said. "Most people in this area live pay check to pay check at $8 an hour -- it's really hard for families."

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