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Obama's Focus On Web And Youth Vote Set Tone For Future Elections

This story was written by Anita B. Hofschneider, Harvard Crimson

President-elect Barack Obamas use of the Internet and his focus on the youth vote have transformed the way campaigns are run, according to four Institute of Politics fellows who spoke at the Forum on Monday night.

The event, moderated by Institute of Politics Director Bill P. Purcell, focused on what made Obamas campaign victorious and the future Obama administration.

Is this just one moment in an electoral cycle? Purcell asked. or are these young people going to vote year after year in different elections?

The fellows discussed whether the spike in youth involvement is unique to this election.

The youth vote went three-to-one for Obama, higher than ever before, said Jennifer Donahue, a political reporter who directs the New Hampshire Institute of Politics.

Alex Castellanos, a Republican media consultant, said he thought that the youth vote will mature. Were in a very youth-focused cycle right now, Castellanos said.

The Obama campaigns mobilization of the youth vote was complemented, and perhaps in part generated, by its Web savvy and sophisticated use of online organizing tools, the fellows said.

The Internet is a tremendously collaborative, engaging media, said Nicco A. Mele, the former chief of Howard Deans Web operations and the founder and president of EchoDitto. It has a central and critical role in this coming administration.

Mele cited Obamas e-mail database, which contains over 10 million e-mail addresses, and Obamas decision to launch the day after he was elected as examples of how electronic media has been prominent in the Obama campaign.

But now that the election has been decided, the focus is shifting from the campaign to the administration.

The Barack Obama who spoke at [Chicagos] Grant Park on the night of the election was a different Barack Obama, said Tom Vilsack, a former governor of Iowa who is rumored to be in the running for agriculture secretary. It was an individual who realized that the weight of the world rested on his shoulders.

The fellows said that Obama should focus his attention on the economy and refrain from shifting too far to the left over the next two years.

Obama really cant go left, Donahue said. Hes got no choice if he wants to maintain that consolidation of Democratic power.

Christopher S. Arlene, a Harvard Kennedy School student, agreed, saying that he believes that Obama is going to have to govern from the middle.

I think a lot of liberals who are a little more left than they are to the center are going to have to taper their expectations, he said.

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