Patrick Ruffini, Republican web guru, has a very interesting post on how the GOP is learning to adapt to the use of online media. The modern conservative movement was largely built on direct mail (it's why Richard Viguerie keeps getting attention, even when he shouldn't), which as Ruffini points out is something that can be targeted toward your supporters and invisible to your opponents. If a key goal of politics is to be heard disproportionately by your own constituencies, conservatives -- from direct mail to "dog whistle politics -- have been masters of the technique. But the internet and email come with a different set of challenges, and as Ruffini says, the external environment matters a lot more:
At the end of day, your message carries your online fundraising. In a good environment, the message is the good environment and how great you’re doing. That’s why the Democrats have a baseline advantage right now. In a bad environment, it becomes incumbent on you to use the viralness of the Web to orchestrate a massive pushback against the environment itself. That’s why Fred is tapping the frustration of the rightroots. And, as a friend pointed out to me the other day, McCain now has no choice but to use the Internet as a strategic vehicle for turning things around, because he certainly can’t afford to do it any other way.It's worth noting that, of the various GOP candidates' online operations, Ruffini seems to think most highly of Fred Thompson's.