FF drafts in Obama's web masters


Fianna Fáil has drafted in the Internet experts who helped President Barack Obama to dominate last year’s US presidential election campaign, and get millions of Americans directly involved in his campaign.

Blue State Digital, based in Washington DC, has already helped to redesign the party’s website, www.fiannafail.ie, which is now offering web visitors the opportunity to put questions directly to Taoiseach Brian Cowen.

President Obama’s website eventually had 13m registered members, and was used to drive tens of thousands of people to become involved directly in the Democrat’s successful campaign against Republican John McCain.

For now, Fianna Fáil is displaying modest ambitions for the success of its revamped Web, emphasizing repeatedly that it will be adding new elements to it in coming months, according to a spokesman.

In Dublin for a 24-hour visit, Blue State Digital’s founding partner, Joe Rospars said the lessons of the Obama campaign can be used by political parties, businesses, non-governmental organizations, and countless others.

“We help to build relationship with ordinary folks,” said Mr Rospars, who said the success of the Obama web campaign has survived last November’s election victory and has been used twice since to generate on-the-ground support for President Obama’s plans.

A successful web campaign offers a voice to the general public; allows them the opportunity to become involved in a meaningful way and increases an organization’s transparency, Mr Rospars declared.

Blue State now has a base in London and has already become involved in Labour’s Ken Livingstone’s failed campaign to retain the London mayoralty, and a campaign by the Communications Workers’ Union protesting against the far-right.

However, Mr Rospars made it clear that politicians will find it ever more difficult to win voters’ attentions using the Web: “There are a lot of people in the US who are used to having interesting relationships with their politicians through the Web.

“So their inbox is already a very competitive place. People will only open up about one-in-four emails that they get,” said Mr Rospars, who took leave from Blue State to go to work for Obama, but has since returned to it.

The work already done by Blue State for Fianna Fail is “only the beginning of the relationship” between the two groups, and will help the party “to hear directly what people are interested in, and what they are angry about”.