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Online, GOP Is Playing Catch-Up

"Sure, conservatives can point to the Dan Rather controversy and the Swift boat episode as a measure of their success online. But that's it," Moulitsas said. "Progressives can claim to an actual movement that raises a lot of money, that helps put politicians in office. . . . Progressives can claim to actually having communities online, where an average Joe can have a voice, and not just a radio personality who happens to write a blog, too."

Moulitsas was referring to Hugh Hewitt, a blogger and host of "The Hugh Hewitt Show." His blog is on TownHall, one of the most popular conservative sites. The site is owned by Salem Communications.

While Democrat Howard Dean is credited with being the first presidential candidate to have an effective Internet strategy, it was McCain who in his losing campaign for the 2000 Republican nomination showed how effective the Internet could be in fundraising.

And Republicans are hardly conceding the fight in the 2008 campaign.

Besides TechRepublican, the group blog started two weeks ago by All, who worked as communications director for Rep. Jack Kingston (R-Ga.), there is QubeTV, founded in March as an alternative to what one of its founders, Charlie Gerow, a former Reagan campaign aide, calls "the liberal bias" of YouTube.

A virtual conservative Main Street, QubeTV asks its users to "stay on guard" and to submit video clips of the "next botched joke," referring to Kerry's comment about U.S. troops.

K. Daniel Glover, who edits National Journal's Technology Daily, cited several other bright spots for Republicans in recent weeks -- Fred D. Thompson, the former senator and "Law & Order" star who's considering a White House run, immediately started connecting with the conservative "right roots," the equivalent of the progressive "Net roots," and Rep. John A. Boehner (R-Ohio), the House minority leader, has joined Twitter, a social networking site.

"But look at the short history of online politics," Glover said. "For Republicans, the Internet is where bad things happen. Take [former U.S. senator] George Allen and his 'macaca' moment. . . . You can kind of understand why Republicans have this almost instinctive fear of the Internet, where the mob rules."

Turk, who led the RNC's e-campaign shop after serving as Bush's online chief, is revamping the lackluster ABC PAC. Turk, who was deputy director of the New Mexico GOP in the 1990s, helped build the fundraising site last spring, months after leaving the RNC, which he found "too bureaucratic" and "not at all conducive to a lot of cutting-edge, creative, outside-the-box thinking."

He's equally critical of the Internet strategy of his party's presidential candidates. "Yes," he said, "they've all got Web sites. Yes, they're doing videos. Yes, some are blogging. But that's not enough to really connect with voters," said Turk, who now works as vice president of industry grass roots at the National Cable & Telecommunications Association.

Hours after Giuliani's revamped Web site went up, Turk ripped it to shreds on the bipartisan group blog TechPresident, writing that "This isn't a Web site for a guy running for Mayor of New York, let alone President."

Nothing he has seen makes him particularly optimistic about the future.

"Sometimes I wonder if it will take losing the White House for the Republicans to take the Internet more seriously," Turk said.

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