How Dean Is Winning The Web

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CHARLIE NEIBERGALL/AP

RESOURCE LOCATOR UNIFORM: Dean launched an Internet-driven effort promising a high-tech campaign to build ties among backers

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Still, MoveOn can't be dismissed so easily. The organization will eventually get behind one candidate and expects to spend between $5 million and $10 million, money that any Democratic candidate would find useful in the face of Bush's fund-raising express. "MoveOn is poised to become the Christian Coalition of the left," says Michael Cornfield, a professor at George Washington University's Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet. "It's the power base of the Democratic Party right now."

Of course, funding a campaign from cyberspace is not new, nor is it any guarantee of success. John McCain and Bill Bradley raised $2.5 million and $1.6 million from their respective sites in 2000. And while candidates like Kerry and Joe Lieberman are emulating Dean's online play, others dismiss it as elitist. "I don't think average Joes are on the Internet using their credit cards to give you $25," scoffs Gephardt campaign official Steve Elmendorf.

But the numbers may suggest otherwise. Dean seems to be tapping into a seam of online middle-class resentment. The vast majority of his 59,000 contributors gave less than $250; the average was $112. Dean may not have Gephardt's solid union support, but he is assembling a different kind of volunteer force, one made up of passionate and often disgruntled believers.

The questions now are whether Dean can broaden his support and whether the Internet is just a boutique fund-raising tool or one that can generate actual votes. Whatever the ultimate verdict, Dean has already shown there is more than one way to reach supporters. The power of the Internet in political campaigning is "going to take away television's total dominance," says Trippi. So stay tuned. Or, rather, log on.

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