The 2008 Florida Democratic Primary is the first "virtual primary" in U.S. history.
It is a unique event in American history, where technology and people power are being used to determine not only who Floridians favor as the Democratic nominee, but today's primary also will play a key role in determining the next president of the United States.
Last year, the Democratic presidential contenders signed a pledge not to campaign in Florida before the primary to punish Florida for violating Democratic National Committee rules and moving the vote in advance of the February 5 barrier set up in 2006.
Floridians argued that the four approved early states Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina were states not representative of the rest of the country and that allowing those states to go first and have a disproportionate influence on the outcome of the election was not only undemocratic, it was unfair.
The candidates countered that "rules are rules" and Florida (and Michigan) broke those rules. More importantly, they argued that they really, really needed the votes in those early states so they had a chance to win. The result: no candidates in Florida (except for private fund-raising trips), no television or radio ads and no direct contact with the Florida media.
Some said that this lack of candidates would hurt the Democrats in Florida and would kill voter turnout in the primary.
Florida bloggers, Netroots activists and candidate supporters had other ideas. We took to the web.
We blogged about the campaign and candidates. We formed our own candidate support organizations. We talked about it on our online radio show, Florida Progressive Radio. We debated the candidates and the election via e-mail and in comment sections on blogs and newspaper websites. We watched web video and we obsessed over the election results in other states via the web.
What could've been a disaster for activism in the state instead became a way for us to find other ways to advance the cause of improving our state and our country. Since we didn't have the presidential candidates here, we had to come up with our own ways to convince people to vote, that their vote would count and to try and convince people that our favored candidate was the best.
All of the candidates had strong support in Florida's growing progressive Netroots community and most of the candidates had active on-the-ground support groups in various parts of the state. We didn't learn about the candidates from face-to-face interaction with them and we didn't spread the message through rallies and candidate appearances. In other words, we didn't do it the old fashioned way, we did it the new way.
Did it work? Record Democratic turnout, approaching half a million, suggests it did. Obviously we can't claim credit for all or even most of those voters, but we did help get the word out and we certainly helped counter the narrative from the national and state media that Florida's votes "don't count."
Not only do they count, they count more than they have in decades. Going back to the early 1970s, Floridians always voted after the nominee was all but decided, so we had no influence on the outcome. This time around, we may have the biggest influence on the nomination process. And we did it with the use of technology being our primary means of campaigning.
In the end, Hillary Clinton will probably win in Florida - a direct result of her having a higher name recognition before the campaign and Barack Obama avoiding the state, killing his chances of countering that advantage - and if she wins the nomination, Florida will be a key factor in that.
Obama has momentum coming off of his huge win in South Carolina, but a similarly huge loss in Florida will counter that and will give Clinton boosts in media coverage and fundraising going into the all-important 20-state February 5 contest.
On the Republican side, Florida will be the state that sends Rudy Giuliani into an early retirement and probably deal Mike Huckabee a death blow as well.
The winner of the tight race between John McCain and Mitt Romney will be anointed the front-runner going into February 5 and will likely be the nominee. At this point, I have a feeling it will be Romney because he is a better public speaker than McCain and has more money, but the race is tight enough a McCain victory wouldn't surprise me.
This article originally appeared on the Sky News Blog.