Obama Cashes in On-line Political Capital for Sotomayor

By Gorman Gorman

May 29, 2009 5:14pm

ABC News' Elizabeth Gorman reports:

The social networking machine that was key to President Obama's election efforts kicks into high gear again today, but this time it's devoted to supporting his pick for the Supreme Court, Judge Sonia Sotomayor.

It launches one day after Vice President Joe Biden fired off an email to the campaign's extensive e-mail list, 10 million strong at the start of his term, and asked subscribers to sign a petition drive in support of Sotomayor.

A social media expert at American University, Jessica Clark, told ABC News that "it's part of the general strategy of the administration to try to bypass the media, which hasn't always been friendly. . . and go directly to the people."

It could also help team Obama circumvent future pitfalls during the confirmation process by garnering public support directly and early.

Internet users who want to show support for Sotomayor can now email their senators without leaving the site, and send letters to newspaper editors with just a few clicks. The group Organizing for America, housed at the Democratic National Committee, solicits on-line donations to ensure that "ordinary Americans are heard as the Senate considers confirming Judge Sonia Sotomayor to be the first Latina Justice on the Supreme Court."

Clark says that during the last presidential campaign, people had a reason to engage with the campaign on-line because they were personally motivated by the election. But Obama's new on-line push for Judge Sotomayor may not enjoy the same on-line popularity as soon as the novelty wears off, according to Clark.

"It's not like if you build it, they will come," she says. "It will have impact if people use the platform to mobilize in particular ways. The thing about the [Obama] campaign was that everyone had a good motivation, whether it was their own special interest, or getting Bush out of office. . . The outcome was clear. This is less clear."

Clark says President Obama gained the "first-mover advantage," the idea that he'll maintain his influence in cyber space simply because he succeeded there first using new media to promote his ideas, while raising more cash that way than any other politician in America's electoral history.

 "There's always the threat that he'll use it as a big club," Clark says in regards to Obama promoting his agenda on-line. "Conservatives have been behind the ball using on-line space, and they're really struggling to catch up."

You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus