WASHINGTON – An Ohio candidate in a long-shot bid to unseat a 16-term House veteran has an unusual approach in deciding how to spend his campaign. He asks Web surfers: Should he sleep in? Prepare for his debate? Campaign door to door?
"It's all about listening to the people," Democrat Jeff Seemann (search) said from a candidate forum in Alliance, Ohio, that Internet voters said he should attend.
Online campaigning was credited with helping former Vermont Gov. Howard Dean (search) raise millions of dollars and surge to the front of the presidential pack early in the Democratic primary campaign season. Seemann, who is running against Republican Rep. Ralph Regula (search) in northeast Ohio, decided to take Dean's tactics a step further.
"I have been running a campaign saying that my opponent is out of touch with his community. This is further proof that not only do I want to listen to the people, I am listening to them."
Several political weblogs, including Daily Kos, Pandagon.com and MyDD.com, which get as many as 440,000 hits a day, advertised Seemann's plan and encouraged people to vote on his schedule:
More than 3,000 people visited Seemann's Web page on Wednesday, compared with the campaign's usual daily traffic of about 150 hits, spokesman Tim Tagaris said.
"We know that the Internet and the blogosphere is not just an ATM machine, they deserve to be involved as well," Seemann said, adding that traffic should continue as people return to the site to view pictures and updates from his day.
Carol Darr, director of the Institute for Politics Democracy & the Internet at George Washington University, said Seemann's move is a good way for long-shot candidates to raise money, but that it is unclear how attracting more Internet visitors will help Seemann win.
"If they're in your district, that might help you a lot. If they're not and they're just going to tell their friends in Hawaii and they're not going to vote, then it probably won't do much good," Darr said. "But they still can contribute, and that helps."
Phil Noble, a political consultant who runs PoliticsOnline, said Seemann's tactic is a good way to get ordinary people involved in politics.
"It attracts people to come and engage with your campaign in a way that is fun and interesting," Noble said.
Of the visitors to Seemann's site, about 1,300 people voted Wednesday that Seemann should wake up at 6 a.m. on Thursday and visit an Ohio manufacturer, an unemployment office and a senior center, participate in two candidate forums, attend the county Democratic Party dinner, tuck his daughter into bed, and swing by a Karaoke party hosted by the local AFL-CIO union.
A message left with a spokeswoman for Regula's campaign was not returned.