The true power of the internet


I am by no means starting any kind of political debate on this blog, and I do not officially support any single candidate over any other one. What I do want to discuss is the rising power of the internet in terms of the U.S. elections that are coming next year.

By this point, most people who use the internet regularly have heard of Ron Paul. Like him or not, stories about him are all over the internet from Digg to Newsvine and videos of him are plastered all over You Tube. And so far he has had a fairly large outpouring of financial support, especially considering his low numbers in most of the national polls (not that these are all that accurate). There has been controversy surrounding his campaign recently when Ars Technica ran a story about a huge number of campaign e-mails coming from spambots. But so far, the internet has only empowered Ron Paul and his supporters, allowing him to raise almost 3 million dollars this quarter, as of then end of October.

Weeks ago a plan was hatched by Ron Paul supporters to borrow Guy Fawkes day (November 5th – Today) and turn it into a Ron Paul fundraiser where they were trying to get 100,000 people to donate 100 dollars each in an effort to raise 10 million dollars in one day. Since this amount of money would break all previous candidate fundraising records, the argument was that this would force the mainstream media to cover the Ron Paul campaign. Well, judging by the numbers posted on the Ron Paul campaign site today they have definitely seen some response. While the numbers may not reach what they had hoped, it is only 9:30 am Eastern as I write this and they have already raised close to 1 million dollars today.

And that is the power of the internet. Only a few years ago, this would have been completely impossible. Ron Paul gained a huge following on the internet, which in turn led to a huge boost in his campaign fundraising. This is completely backwards from what any other candidate has ever really experienced. Most of the time a president enters the candidacy with a large amount of money, gains notoriety through campaigning (or from already being a celebrity), and then these donations begin to snowball. The internet has allowed Ron Paul's community to form, which is a small and vocal minority that is keeping his campaign well funded compared to some of his Republican competitors. (The Democrats are enjoying  much higher fundraising numbers, but I'm not here to discuss the reasons for this)

To demonstrate exactly what I am talking about, lets look at some numbers (all programmers love to look at numbers):

This first chart is a look at the average percent of polls over the ABC News/Washington Post (10/30/07), American Research Group (10/11/2007), and CNN (10/13/07) polls. Since the polls are split between Republicans and Democrats, the percentages don't add up and so I am just showing you relative sizes.

Percent Of Polls Graph

This next graph shows you the number of dollars raised in Q3 2007 by each of these candidates. You will notice that for most of the bigger candidates their percentage of the polls is very close to their percentage of total funds raised. In fact, you'll notice that Bill Richardson, Joe Biden, and Ron Paul all seem to have the biggest discrepancies between their percentage of the polls and their relative campaign fundraising. So now you might be asking yourself "But I thought you were going to show us the power of the internet? If a number of the lesser known candidates are seeing a similar jump in their relative funding, then how does that show a huge internet support base for Ron Paul?"

Dollars Raised Graph

I'm glad you asked…and well, these numbers are for total dollars raised in Q3 2007. So far in the fourth quarter of this year Ron Paul has raised 4.3 million dollars and we are just barely into November. This all goes back to the November 5th plan that was hatched by supporters. Just today Ron Paul has so far raised about 1.3 million dollars (At about 10:30 am Eastern). This is more than 20% of his entire last quarter in just one day. Do you still think this would be possible without the internet? So, just for fun, lets do something entirely unscientific and take the candidates Q3 fundraising and pretend that this quarter they are raising exactly the same amount as they were last quarter. (This is also assuming a linear donation rate, which is inaccurate, but this is just for run, right?!)

So, here is the average fund raising per day for each candidate in last quarter:

Hillary Clinton $ 302,824.58
Barack Obama $ 231,992.30
John Edwards $ 77,796.01
Joe Biden $ 19,102.11
Bill Richardson $ 58,245.49
Dennis Kucinich $ 10,996.70
Rudy Giuliani $ 126,350.60
John McCain $ 62,331.28
Fred Thompson $ 139,435.99
Mitt Romney $ 199,964.34
Mike Huckabee $ 11,244.41
Ron Paul $ 57,157.13

Then, lets scale this by the number of days that we are into this quarter (again, this is not a scientifically based method)

Hillary Clinton $ 10,901,684.74
Barack Obama $ 8,351,722.96
John Edwards $ 2,800,656.39
Joe Biden $ 687,675.91
Bill Richardson $ 2,096,837.61
Dennis Kucinich $ 395,881.04
Rudy Giuliani $ 4,548,621.52
John McCain $ 2,243,926.17
Fred Thompson $ 5,019,695.61
Mitt Romney $ 7,198,716.13
Mike Huckabee $ 404,798.87
Ron Paul $ 2,057,656.70

Now, if we replace Ron Paul's numbers with his actual current fundraising numbers (as of 10:50 am Eastern), we get a graph that looks like this…

Update 1: At 7:30 PM Eastern, the total was at $6,142,599

 Dollars Raised Q4 Estimate

It looks quite a bit different, doesn't it? Notice that Ron Paul is only slightly trailing Giuliani and only a bit further behind Fred Thompson and Mitt Romney. I'll update this post later in the day if the fundraising numbers coming out of the Ron Paul campaign change dramatically. So, while Ron Paul is still a very long shot for actually getting the Republican nomination, this election will show that the most powerful force going into this century is not going to be any president or party. Instead, it is going to be the people of this country and the  internet that will pull them together.

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