'08 Web Gurus Chase Money, Support Online

Web-savvy campaign gurus aim for political movement and support online.

ByABC News
February 10, 2009, 3:26 PM

June 15, 2007 — -- The second-quarter dash for cash is nearing its home stretch.

With just two weeks left before the '08 presidential candidates must reveal their second-quarter fundraising totals, the campaigns are flooding inboxes asking supporters to show them the money.

"We need to raise $2.3 million online before June 30th," reads an e-mail former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards sent to supporters Thursday.

"Please help the eCampaign reach our fundraising goal of $3 million by June 30th," reads another e-mail sent by Christian Ferry, national e-campaign director for Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz.

Those totals, disclosed by the campaigns to the Federal Election Commission at the end of the month, are widely regarded as a measure of a candidate's political prowess.

Begging for cash online is nothing new in election politics: McCain raised more than a million dollars during his White House bid in 2000, and Gov. Howard Dean's campaign blew that wide open in 2004, raising $59 million with 650,000 online supporters.

But in an election season poised to raise more money online than ever before, many '08 campaigns have hired Web-savvy Internet gurus -- some at six-figure salaries.

They've included sophisticated candidate Web sites in their campaign arsenals, and are reaching voters online, via text messages and on social networking sites like Facebook, MySpace and YouTube.

The new crop of campaign Internet strategists -- Web-savvy, earnest and full of youthful exuberance -- argues that fundraising is only part of their strategy.

"I see this as a much bigger movement," said Josh Orton, 26, deputy director of new media for the Obama for America campaign in an interview with ABC News.

"We always think about what kind of offline results will come from our online efforts," he acknowledged. "But we're really candidly connecting people with the campaign in a meaningful way."

Still, veteran strategists still say: Show them the money.

Joe Trippi, the godfather of online politics, argues that while "building a movement" is important, money is still the mother's milk of politics.

"Don't let anybody tell you it's not about the money," Trippi said in a June panel discussion on the future of online communications in Washington, D.C.

"That's what it's all about," he said. Trippi recently signed on to the Edwards campaign.