Howard Dean and Mike Duncan, chairs of the Democratic and Republican parties respectively, spoke November 5 in a traditional 'morning-after-election' press gathering in Washington (see NPC Luncheon Address with DNC & RNC Chairmen--November 5, 2008 on C-span.org). There was a lot of wonky political stuff with just enough semi-geeky technology commentary to make it interesting.
Dean complimented Duncan for showing the Democratic National Committee the way in terms of technology adoption in electionieering. Dean claimed the Republicans had a 15-year headstart (apparently dating to the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994). Duncan complimented Dean for his ground-breaking use of the Internet when Dean ran for President in 2004. (The day after an election is that kind of day in the U.S. It won't last long.)
Neither wanted to be too specific about what comes next so as not to tip their hands. But Duncan noted how he had hired his eCampaign director, Cyrus Krohn, who had worked at Yahoo (YHOO) and launched Slate at Microsoft (MSFT), in 2007 to help catch up with Dean. He hinted at some new wrinkles in the RNC's vaunted data-mining and microtargetting software. That's business intelligence (BI) software to us but you have to drop the B when it's supporting a political campaign. He believes getting out the vote and keeping the voter informed in 2012 will involve a new era in narrowcasting. Does that mean that the next Republican nominee will not emulate the Obama infomercial?
Governor Dean was more coy. He mentioned Silicon Valley and said he didn't know what the next big election whatsis was but that someone in Silicon Valley probably does and that it is probably out on the Internet in some rudimentary fashion already. Dean stressed that the Internet is more than a technology but a community. Well of course you expect comments like that from a Democrat but behind the sociobabble the DNC and its candidate Obama demonstrated a clear understanding of the bits and bytes. That's why it would not be surprising if Eric Schmidt of Google (GOOG) is the first Chief Technology Officer of the U.S. promised by Obama in his platform?
Does it all matter? Historically yes. An organization called ndn.org has done a good job of thinking this through, tracing the FDR era driven by radio through the TV era driven by Kennedy to the Internet era driven by Obama. In each case it took the other party 20 years to catch up (20 years between Roosevelt and Eisenhower; 20 years between Kennedy and Reagan). Duncan is all about making sure that it's not another 20 years before the Republicans are back in control.
(For readers outside the U.S.: government "control' is a loose concept in the United States. The ndn.org metric is based on major watershed presidential elections but "control" in the U.S is actually driven more clearly by which party leads a bicameral legislature that changes on a different schedule than changes in the U.S. presidency. In the last 70 years this has happened only six times, in 1946, 1948, 1952, 1954, 1994, and 2006, as measured by changes in the controlling party of the House of Representatives.)