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www.usingthewebincampaigns.com

July 20, 2007 |  8:44 pm

Presidential campaigns have entire committees that meet in secret to plan what sites their candidate will visit when to deliver what message. Every detail is carefully planned. What auditorium, for instance, is large enough to look impressive on TV but not so large there'll be any empty seats that TV cameras could inconveniently focus on?

The web is productive for fundraising too, of course. But now the web enables campaigns to do some event planning differently and appear more democratic. Barack Obama's campaign, for instance, recently picked four campaign contributors of modest sums from $5 to $25 and invited them to Washington to have dinner with the candidate.

A videocamera happened to be there and a tape of the get-together soon showed up on the website to underline the wide variety and appeal of Obama's impressive number of 258,000 donors.

Now comes the John Edwards campaign, which ran an online competition to see which community wanted the candidate to visit the most. The results are in and, thanks to a 24-year-old Edwards fan named Shawn Dixon, that presidential campaign and candidate will soon be visiting Columbus, Ky., for a town-hall-type meeting, possibly in a nearby park.

Columbus is a Mississippi River community in western Kentucky of 229 people and one main street which somehow amassed 1,817 votes online. Dixon used social networking sites like Facebook and MySpace to round up support during the last month.

It's such a big deal that just winning the contest got a nine-paragraph story in the Lexington Herald-Leader.

Now, Dixon got another seven paragraphs in this all-important political blog.

No, make that eight.

--Andrew Malcolm

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