Six months ago Ned Lamont had almost no name recognition, and the only public office he had ever held was as a selectman in Greenwich nearly 20 years ago.
Not exactly the kind of candidate one would pick to face an incumbent like Joe Lieberman, a popular politician in his third term as Connecticut Senator who came within a handful of votes of being vice president.
But Lamont had a couple of really important weapons in his arsenal—money and the Internet.
He’s a millionaire and was able to sink over $2 million of his own money into the race. That helps.
But his campaign effectively made use of the Web, and has in many ways become the text book example of how to motivate a netroots base and get bloggers and online activists to rally around your cause.
Lamont started out very simply on the Web, using it to recruit volunteers in each of Connecticut’s municipalities. Those volunteers blanketed their areas looking for any and all potential voters.
Grassroots efforts to get out the vote are nothing new. Using the Web to get out the vote is very 2.0, as they say.
Lamont also tapped into the cultural zeitgeist out on the Web in a big way. His cheeky and often self-deprecating video ads often made it to viral sites like You Tube.
In contrast, Lieberman’s attempts seemed to fall flat. One ad, an attack on Lamont using a cartoon bear, backfired on Lieberman’s camp when liberal bloggers began posting it on their own sites and mocking it.
There is a very fine line in the blogosphere between street cred and pandering. Woe unto the politician who miscalculates, as it simply makes them look out of touch.
And therein lies the heart of the endgame debacle Tuesday afternoon. When Lieberman’s camp came forward accusing left leaners of hacking the Joe 2006 site, they appeared whiney and laughable, not victimized.
Bloggers hopped on the story instantly, saying that Lieberman probably forgot to pay his bill, and that was the reason for the site shutdown.
Others were offering to come fix it and get the site back online.
That’s the cyber equivalent of helping an old lady across the street—not a flattering light to cast on Senator Lieberman.
Meanwhile, basking in the afterglow of victory, the cyberatti are claiming their first kill in the political arena. While it may be giving them too much credit at this point, there are lessons to be learned from the Ned Lamont story—for both sides of the aisle.
It remains to be seen if bloggers can win an election for their candidate, but we know for sure they can lose one for the opponent.
As for the infamous Crash of Site 2006, I think blogger Markos Moulitsas may be onto something. He pointed out that Lieberman’s camp was only paying $15 a month for Web hosting, compared to the $1500 a month Lamont shelled out.
You get what you pay for, and on election day with site usage at its highest, it is wholly conceivable that the site just simply crashed and burned, lacking the depth of support to accommodate the strain.