In today's world, support is defined by money. When we look at presidential candidates, one metric is how much money the candidate is raising. This was constantly monitored during the primaries and will be monitored even more closely between now and November. Candidates are raising money through all types of methods, including the Internet.
My fundamental question though, is: it really "support" if everyone sends $1?
On the Internet today, you can raise money easily. There are tools like PayPal and ChipIn that allow people to safely donate to the cause du jour. I don't mean to imply that these tools are bad or that some of the collections are bad. I think it's a good way to do fund raising. But, the question is, should we measure a politician's success by his (or her) ability to raise money this way?
I saw a recent article about a candidate for the Kansas legislature who is using PayPal to raise money for his candidacy. Sean Tevis has gone from a measly $1525 in his war chest before he started his Internet campaign to over $95,000 in just two weeks. And over 1/2 of these donations were under $8.34 each. But are these 5700+ people really supporting him or are they just laughing at the comic strip on his website?
Four years ago, Howard Dean was a fund-raising machine. He even looked at fund-raising as a sporting event, playing games with Bush supporters. When Bush had a big fund-raising dinner with $1000-a-plate (and more) dinners, Dean challenged his supporters to raise even more via the Internet, a few dollars at a time. (see article here).
But of course, Dean's campaign folded during the primaries and he never even made it to the 2004 election. (Kerry won the nomination, Bush the election)
You can even go back to 1970 and see the same kind of fund raising. Of course the Internet didn't exist in 1970, so George McGovern used an early form of spam called "direct mail" to do fund raising. It was a novel approach at the time and the response he received was higher than expected. "2 percent would have been a strong response," McGovern achieved 4%. Today's standard is 1/2 percent (reference here). The fund raising paid off, he won the Democratic nomination in 1972. However, he lost in a landslide election to Richard Nixon.
Now you can look at McGovern and Dean and identify other reasons these candidates didn't finish with the results reflected in their fund-raising. I have no idea of Sean Tevis' chances. But the question remains, does financial support through these fund raising techniques reflect real support?
I think the answer is obvious. But in order to prove it, I'd like everyone on the Internet to send me $1 for more research. If I raise $1million, I'm sure it will prove I have a lot of support.