Facebook Changes Dynamics of Race

While election results are not in yet, Facebook already comes in as a winner.

Nov. 3, 2008— -- Facebook, a network that lets you log on, trade messages and share photos and videos with friends, has become a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week hub of political interaction.

Americans are voraciously swapping news and videos from the campaign trail, and analyzing the candidates.

"Facebook is going to be a generational transformation of American politics and forever it's going to change the way campaigns are run," Columbia University history professor David Eisenbach said.

According to a January ABC News/Facebook poll, the Internet rivals television as one of the top sources of news about the presidential race.

"Every day we see over 200,000 posts that mention either [Democrat Barack] Obama or [Republican John] McCain," Facebook market development director Randi Zuckerberg said.

The Obama team got into Facebook early in the campaign, and more than 2 million users have signed on as Obama supporters. The McCain camp has rallied more than 600,000 Facebook supporters of its own.  A team of campaign workers are dedicated to reaching them with messages, getting the word out to an unlimited number of users

But it's not just the big race -- Facebook is having a significant impact on local races, too.

"In some ways Facebook can be even more influential to local campaigns and politicians," Zuckerberg said. "Because those are places where a few thousand votes really matter and a few thousand votes can really swing a race."

New Jersey Democratic congressional candidate Dennis Shulman uses Facebook to rally support in his race against incumbent Rep. Scott Garrett.

"We have over 400 supporters and it makes it possible for us to keep in touch with all of them," Shulman said.

Shulman, a 58-year-old, blind, former rabbi, has turned to Facebook to help take on an incumbent with more experience and funding. Younger Web-savvy campaign staffers turned him on to the site.

"The connection with Facebook has really made a huge difference in how this campaign has been run, who's working for us and who's supporting us financially," Shulman said.

Through the site, Shulman has raised $250,000, much from college students across the country.

"Far from being an apathetic generation, this generation is just as politically savvy and involved as the 1960s generation," Eisenbach said. "The difference is they're not doing it on the street; they're doing it on the Web."

What remains to be seen is how much Facebook will translate into actual votes. Either way, Shulman is pleased with the site.

"It keeps it so I can keep track of my daughters," Shulman said of Facebook. "It's going to be something I'm going to want to do whether I win or not. Now I'm kind of hooked on it."

Shulman is hooked and so, too, are millions of other politically-minded Americans, waiting for the latest campaign update.