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All eyes on online army as it monitors its me -

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All eyes on online army as it monitors its mentor

The World Today - Friday, 14 November , 2008 12:26:00

ELEANOR HALL: When Barack Obama moves into the White House in January, he'll have a weapon that no
other president before him has ever had at his disposal.

It's an online army of more than ten million supporters, donors and volunteers who were marshalled
during his presidential campaign.

The question is how will the new president use this online support base and could it backfire?

Washington correspondent Kim Landers reports.

KIM LANDERS: Barack Obama is expected to revolutionise White House communications.

Just like Franklin Roosevelt did with radio and John F. Kennedy with TV, the new president is
expected to harness the internet.

It could mean regular presidential podcasts or even videos popping up on YouTube.

He's got another powerful tool - an army of political foot soldiers.

The Obama campaign has gathered the emails and mobile phone numbers of 10-million supporters.

Jon Carson was the national field director for the Obama campaign.

JON CARSON: We've run sort of a giant experiment here in volunteer management and we want to take a
look at the lessons learned from that. As President-elect Obama takes office and a legislative
agenda is put together, I think in the same way that these incredible volunteers that we had
carried his message throughout the campaign - talking to their neighbours about why he was the
right candidate to bring the change that we needed - I can see them in a similar way explaining a
health care proposal, explaining whatever issue it is.

KIM LANDERS: President George W. Bush still does a Saturday radio address.

President-elect Barack Obama has already setup a new website to keep supporters engaged in the lead
up to Inauguration Day.

So how will his internet savvy campaign influence the way he communicates when he's sworn in?

Andrew Rasiej is the founder of the Personal Democracy Forum which tracks the use of new
technologies in American politics.

ANDREW RASIEJ: I believe that the Obama administration will revolutionise the way presidents will
speak to the American public in as dramatic a way as the declaration of the world being round was
to the shipping industry.

KIM LANDERS: Do you think a President Obama will be popping up on YouTube or sending out his
message via podcasts?

ANDREW RASIEJ: Absolutely. I think that the internet offers an economy of abundance where there is
no limits on time and space so the president doesn't just need to do press conferences and radio
addresses as was done in the 20th century. He can now offer his views on YouTube but he can also
listen via YouTube and citizens can post questions or concerns.

They can organise themselves and vote which questions and concerns are the most important to them
and the president can direct his answers directly to the most important pressing issues as the
internet bubbles them up.

KIM LANDERS: He says the Obama campaign's database of supporters is one of the largest in the
world.

ANDREW RASIEJ: And as president he's going to be able to reach out to the same group of people and
ask them to support his legislation and in effect making them his own special interest and these
people now who have been empowered and feel empowered through the election process, now are going
to demand a seat at the table next to the lobbyists or over the lobbyists and other special
interests that traditionally have been you know, trying to effect legislation or the decisions
coming out of Washington.

You know the president has always had the ability to talk over the heads of Congress to the
American public and now he can go between their legs too.

KIM LANDERS: Kelly Gallaher was part of Barack Obama's grassroots movement.

She was a team leader in Racine, Wisconsin and she's keen to use technology to help keep in contact
with people who helped during the campaign.

KELLY GALLHER: In the Racine county area here in Wisconsin, we estimated that we had close to 1,000
volunteers so I really think that it's not too much to guess that we can keep several hundred in
contact with each other.

KIM LANDERS: Some analysts say Barack Obama could wind up disappointing millions of people who
thought they had a stake in his presidency.

But Kelly Gallaher is more optimistic than that.

KELLY GALLHER: Well I don't think as progressives and as liberals that we could be less happy than
we've been in the last eight years.

KIM LANDERS: His emails to supporters used to be simply signed "Barack".

Now that he's about to become president, that could change.

This is Kim Landers in Washington for The World Today.