Matt Stoller of MyDD has an interesting post today that looks at why the Republicans appear to be falling behind Democrats in their use of the Internet. Here is how he closes the piece:

I’ve been digging into this question, of why the left is winning online, for years now. It’s not easy to answer, since the tools we use are accessible to anyone. On the one hand, you can argue that it’s the practical experience of using these tools that determines your success, and the GOP just is not that experienced. In 2008, or 2010, someone on the right will figure it out and bring the internet magic to the party.

On the other hand, and this is what I believe, the internet’s rise in politics is part of a larger shift in the nature of our political system that is radically reshaping both parties. The Democratic Party is ‘ahead’ not in the sense that its masters have learned the new tools, but because the party is becoming much more open and aligned around a left-wing ideology that is ascendant in America. The Republican Party will go through this shift as well, maybe in two years, maybe in four, or six, but it will catch up with modern America. But it’s going to be a very different structure with different leaders than it is today, either much more aligned with a Perotista anti-immigrant base or more left-wing and aligned with a multi-cultural America.

I agree with Stoller that this isn’t about who has better stuff. As he mentions, the tools being used are accessible to anyone and the Republicans have access to smart and capable consultants, programmers and designers (including us). The divide isn’t about who has the best tech or biggest computer.

The problem is bigger than that. It is one of mindset. At this point, the majority of Republican campaigns just don’t have the stomach to run the kind of social campaigns being deployed by Barack Obama and John Edwards. The desire for complete control is still too strong. So you end up not blogging and with fake social tools like McCainSpace.

Republicans would be lucky if they were simply losing some sort of arms races. It is a lot easier to go in the back office and build a better mouse trap than it is to get the front office to fundamentally change the way they think about campaigns.

Update: Patrick Ruffini chimes in with a thoughtful post.

Update 2David All rounds up all the discussion.  In the comments to one of David’s earlier posts on this issue, Bush/Cheney e-campaign guy Mike Turk said the following:

There is a consensus among a lot of GOP Internet strategists that our past electoral success has contributed directly to our complacency online. If we have a successful formula, why mess with it? We don’t, the theory goes, want to start screwing with the recipe and end up being the political equivalent of New Coke.

I suspect, and have had this sentiment confirmed by many others, that we will not right this ship before we a) lose it all, and b) spend a few years lost in the wilderness…

About the Author
Todd Zeigler
Todd Zeigler serves as the Brick Factory’s chief strategist and oversees the operations of the firm. In his sixteen year career in digital, he has planned and implemented campaigns for clients including the Pickens Plan, International Youth Foundation, Panthera, Edison Electric Institute, and the American Chemistry Council. Todd develops ambitious online advocacy programs, manages crises, implements online marketing strategies, and develops custom applications and software. He is bad at golf though.