updated 7/23/2004 12:15:08 PM ET 2004-07-23T16:15:08

So, I am getting really tired of those cute names for the voting groups that are supposedly going to decide the outcome of this election. You know, NASCAR Dads! Soccer Moms!

It’s all wrong. The key to this election will be young people, disaffected young people, young people who have never voted before— and I’ll be damned if I am going to come up with some cutesy name for them "like Sons and Daughters of Nascar Dad and Soccer Moms." Just shoot me!

What is remarkable about this election cycle is how for the first time in decades the younger generation of Americans is the most active and energized.  How they communicate with each other, how they register, turn out and vote may well decide everything in November.

When it comes to reaching these and other non-party aligned disaffected voters… well, let's just say the power center in this election isn’t where most pundits think it is. It's shifting to some unlikely places:

  • Howard Stern. Recent polling suggests that fully 4 percent of the electorate are paying attention to what Howard Stern says and are inclined to follow his lead when it comes to who should be our next President. And these are 4 points who have never voted before—fed up with politics as usual, or politics as a waste of time—people who are suddenly engaged.  Clear Channel may have a problem with Stern, but 4 percent of the American electorate not only don't have a problem with Howard Stern, they actually like that he has a problem with Clear Channel and the establishment.  If Stern continues to tell them that their vote matters and that they can make a difference, they will vote.  So move over Al From (founder of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council), Howard Stern will have more of an impact on who our next President will be.
  • and like minded websites.  Voter Virgin is—you guessed it—a site promoting the notion that young people need to lose their virginity, and vote for the first time. "It’s OK to vote and you don’t have to tell your parents you are doing it." Voter Virgin provides pamphlets on “Safe Voting” and other humorous stuff that parodies every sex education course ever taught with the goal of getting young people to register themselves and vote. It’s young people, talking on their medium—the Internet—and in their language.
  • Blogs. Those daily journals that millions of young people (and now most campaigns) post on the Internet are already playing a huge part in this year’s campaign.  With readerships that most daily newspapers in this country would envy, bloggers like Instapundit, DailyKos, Atrios and Wonkette! have actually been credentialed for next week’s Democratic Convention in Boston.  They are at the dynamic center of the political debate, giving disaffected voters an instantaneous way to speak their mind and talk back to the political establishment.  No more “letters to the editor,” even by e-mail.  Blogs happen in real time and politicians and pundits who ignore them do so at their own peril.

The keys to this election may well be in the hands of Howard Stern’s loyal fans, virgin voters and the blogger brigades.  Think I’m kidding?  Check back with me after election day and we’ll see who’s laughing then.

Joe Trippi is an MSNBC contributor. He joins Chris Matthews' all-star panel on . He's also a blogger on Hardball's new weblog, and author of "The Revolution Will Not be Televised: Democracy, the Internet and the Overthrow of Everything."


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