I love Howard Fineman. He's one of the best political writers in the business. He's great on Hardball, and his coverage and analysis of elections and the pure sport of politics is second-to-none.
But still, it's hilarious when non-tech-savvy journalists wade into those electronic weeds.
The Internet is now a part of politics as it never has before. As Fineman rightly notes, it was Howard Dean's (and Joe Trippi's) success in raising money and building a grassroots community online in 2003 that ushered political campaigns into a new era. Politics and politicians have always followed the money, and therefore 2008 presidential hopefuls are online and actively seeking advantage, dollars, and voters. Both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama broke away from the long tradition of officially announcing a presidential campaign in a hometown dripping from its very pores in Americana, for example, and instead announced via online video.
Politicians are now seeking ways to integrate technology into their relationship with constituents as well. Obama has made at least one appearance on popular left-leaning political blog Daily Kos during the run-up to the pivotal 2006 midterm elections, and '08 presidential aspirant John Edwards delivers regular posts on Twitter, the newest rage of the tech-bloggy set. (Edwards' staff has thanked his "followers" on Twitter for all of their words of support over the recent announcement that Elizabeth Edward's breast cancer has returned.)
Journalists are trying to keep up. It's chuckle-worthy every time that Hardball's Chris Matthews (another favorite of mine) announces that features and video clips can be found online. He has a look of smirking wonder that seems to say, "There's this thing called the Internet and people actually do stuff there, can you believe it?"
This week, in the midst of an interesting-as-usual piece called "Out of Control," which looks at how technology and the media now leave political candidates with less control over the message of campaigns than ever before, Fineman let this beauty slip: "Last time I checked, MySpace, by far the leading social networking blogosphere, had more than 60 million registered members."