Obama off-guard on election night

As Barack Obama was giving his first news conference today as president elect, the Web 2.0 Summit in San Francisco was hearing how the web was won by him in 2008.

Obama, who launched his change.gov transition website on Thursday, used the web principally to raise money and organise constituencies, said John Heilemann of New York magazine, moderator of the politics panel.

“To me, one of the most staggering statistics of the election was that, in the month of February, Barack Obama raised $70m – the most any democratic candidate had ever raised in a month – and held exactly zero fund-raisers,” he said.

Joe Trippi, who worked on John Edwards’ campaign and authored The Revolution Will Not Be Televised, said: “The future is that this is the best prospect we’ve had for public financing.”

“Obama won every single caucus state that mattered,” he continued, “And he did it because he was able to move and organise thousands of people across the states and [Hillary Clinton] did not have the money and did not use the tools. His lead came out of those caucus states. This is civic engagement on a level we’ve never seen before.”

Gavin Newsom, mayor of San Francisco, complained that politics had entered a YouTubeification phase where “everything you say is exposed.”

“I now have to watch myself singing I left my heart in San Francisco and I can’t get it to go away. This is the end of the world as we know it,” he joked.

More seriously, he warned there could be a lot of collateral damage from politics becoming a 24-7 web TV series, although Joe Trippi argued the impact would lessen over time.

Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post defended her army of 12,000 “Off the Bus” citizen journalists, which had reported off-the-cuff remarks such as Bill Clinton calling a Vanity Fair editor a “scumbag”.

Mayor Newsom raised the question of whether this full glare of web exposure would make politicians more guarded or make them seem more open:

“Are we now more authentic or less authentic, when we always have to be ‘on’ [-the-record], that’s the question,” he said.

(The photo above of Barack Obama’s unguarded moment on election night is actually from his own publicly available photostream on Flickr)

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