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Dear Stranger, Give me money

January 2, 2008 |  2:12 am

One of the goals of any presidential campaign in these early primary days of retail politics is to make a personal connection with as many potential supporters as possible. The general election later this year is about wholesale, assembling mobs of supporters to win entire states.

But the primaries are about winning living rooms and diners-full of folks. There are countless ways to do this. Brief conversations, which take time. Handshakes are quicker and effective if you look the voter in the eye, not over his shoulder at the next person. The Bush families are famous for brief handwritten notes of thanks to everyone involved in helping every appearance.

Campaigns even have machines programmed to mimmick the candidate's handwriting for a personal message and signature on literature, brochures, books and photos. These days the personalized e-mail is an extremely cost-effective way to reach out to supporters to maintain contact and seek donations.

These e-mails, which computers transmit overnight by the millions, are programmed to pick up the names from vast lists of supporters or would-be supporters. But if you're gonna do that, you had better make sure the machinery is working properly.

The Times' researcher par excellence Nona Yates got a personalized New Year's e-mail Tuesday from New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, who's seeking the Democratic nomination. It began:

"Dear First Name,

"As we all gaze anxiously into the promise and anticipation that comes with every New Year, Barbara and I wanted to take a moment to extend a heartfelt thank you for your support and generosity in 2007.

"One of our favorite New Year's Day traditions is to take a few moments and reflect upon the experiences of the previous year. Barbara whips up a couple mugs of steaming hot cocoa and we sit by the fireplace and reminisce for about an hour -- it's a wonderful way to remind ourselves of the lessons, both good and bad, we've learned over the past 365 days.

"The biggest lesson I've learned this year is how with the help of committed activists like you, anything is possible. And when I say anything, First Name, I mean anything!"

It was signed: "Happy New Year, Bill."

That hot chocolate kinda warms your heart, doesn't it?

--Andrew Malcolm