Seema Mehta writes at The Los Angeles Times:
Sarah Palin rolled out a new website for her PAC on Monday with significantly more content and features, along with a vehicle for Palin to start gathering email addresses and information from her supporters.
The new site, sarahpac.com, is a necessary step if Palin intends to run for president and for the first time gives her organization the ability to interact with her supporters by providing a centralized location to collect data and solicit donations. Though Palin maintains a staff of several seasoned political hands, she had yet to build out some of the basic needs of a political organization — including an email list.
SarahPAC Treasurer Tim Crawford told POLITICO that the new site has been in the work for some time and was designed to engage more directly with Palin supporters.
“We needed a new website, one that was more interactive,” Crawford said. “We’re certainly engaging with Sarah’s supporters.”
Pre-Obama, the political world viewed digital as a box that had to be checked," said Bryan Merica, a GOP new-media consultant. "What Obama did was show this is a tool we can use to not only fundraise but win elections."
Patrick Ruffini, another new-media consultant, described the 2008 Obama campaign as the "gold standard."
"Republicans, after that campaign, we were kind of licking our wounds, wondering how we could do this better," he said.
They have since learned; the "tea party" movement was built in part on social media connections, much as Obama's campaign.
Ruffini cited the Internet's role in the 2010 election of Massachusetts Republican Scott Brown, delivering $12 million in donations in the 18 days before he captured the Senate seat that had been held by the late Democrat Edward M. Kennedy.
"Digital … made a game-changing difference in the race," said Ruffini, whose firm worked on the Brown campaign and is now working for Pawlenty.
Among the most remarkable users is Palin, who routinely posts notes to her nearly 3 million followers on Facebook in order to bypass what she calls the "lamestream" media.
"I can't think of any time in American history where the vice presidential candidate on a losing ticket has been so iconic two, three years after the election," said Paul Levinson, a Fordham University social media expert. "That's because Sarah Palin uses Facebook and all these new media quite effectively."
"It wouldn't have been the same election without the design," says Aaron Perry-Zucker, a then-senior at RISD who founded designforobama.org, a web application that collected posters from pro-Obama designers and formatted them for easy downloading and printing. Launched in just a week, the site garnered hundreds of submissions from around the world and was spun off into an art book edited by Perry-Zucker and filmmaker Spike Lee.
Design historian Steven Heller wrote during the campaign that "never, as far as I can tell, in the history of presidential campaigns has such a huge outpouring of independent posters been created for a single candidate. This election's poster child is definitely Barack Obama." Merited or not, the Obama campaign so galvanized designers that it created a full-fledged visual movement more typical of a revolution than than election.
The visual characteristics of the Obama brand became trendy, and remain so. The sweeping gradients and subtle shadows of Obama's 2008 site and the new whitehouse.gov were not new, but atypical, and Obama's look propelled those trends to prominence. The campaign's favored typeface, Gotham by Hoefler and Frere-Jones, was recently acquired by MOMA along with 23 other "New Faces". McCain's oft-used Trajan, typical of movie posters, gravestones and memorials, was not.
"Picking Gotham over Trajan is clearly a hip move, showing that you know something about the design zeitgeist, about the evolution of typography, and going with something that feels modern and clean," Perry-Zucker says. The typefaces, featured prominently in the endless torrent of campaign ads ran by both sides during the race, contributed greatly to the perceived character of each candidate. Trajan versus Gotham encapsulated how the public ultimately judged the election: old versus young, tired versus fresh.