Think Harder's diary makes the point that the Obama campaign's record-breaking sums of donation poses the danger of increasing the costs of future campaigns indefinitely.
But maybe we are at a tipping point. The ability to raise money is important, but perhaps the real strength of Obama's model is that it relies so much on the initiative of individuals at the grass-roots level.
Who is contributing on-line? Well, those folks who are hooked up to the internets, obviously.
What is the point of the money? Aside paying for staff, office supplies, and other sundries, it's mainly to put up television ads to reach the people who aren't hooked up.
This campaign is Dean 2.0. Social networking and connectivity has vastly expanded since 2004, and the Obama people have been the main beneficiaries. Even Obama expressed surprised at the power of his web-based fund-raising.
But how effective are TV ads in this day and age? People are not watching network TV nearly as much, if at all. Today's youth is more likely to be text-messaging and You-Tubing. As they displace the older voters going forward, the costs of campaigning will no longer be measured by media buys. Instead, creation and maintenance of social networks will be the key. And campaigns will strive to create the most effective viral communication.
Peer-to-peer communication is considered to be more effective in shaping people's opinions. People want to belong. And trust in TV advertising has been continually diminishing.
So the real coup of the Obama campaign may be their genius in motivating and managing the self-organizing volunteers. If by November there are three or four million people on the ground, working their own neighborhoods, maybe no state will be safe for John McCain.
And in the face of these extended social networks, the smear machines will be far less effective. The old model of the isolated voters sitting at home in front of the tube is fading fast. The Obama campaign has just announced the creation of a team that will fight back against e-mail and other viral attacks. Welcome to the new battlefield.
Can the big-money groups fight this spreading democracy? We'll see. It's going to be a very, very interesting election.