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Mining 4 votes

"Mining 4 votes" Continued...

Issue: "Africa, Inc.," Oct. 10, 2009

When Zeiger is listening he can melt into a room's background, but when he gets up at a lectern and starts to rumble about his favorite theme-a generation that will change America, and not in the way you heard "change" last year-he commands attention. When he shared the commencement stage with Mitt Romney as student president of Hillsdale College, the biased campus buzz was that they'd rather vote for Zeiger. He presses his friends to run for office too, noting that his own legislative district elected a 24-year-old in 1972, a 22-year-old in 1988 (Randy Tate, who Zeiger said "doorbelled the whole district, got bit by dogs, wore out four pairs of shoes" and then went on to Congress and the Christian Coalition), and appointed a 23-year-old in 1996.

Republicans over 30 may not be as doddering as people think, however. When it comes to online networking, of course the digital generation will find it effortless, said Chuck DeFeo, a political consultant specializing in media and web whose stints have included Townhall.com and The Washington Times: But "It's not about 'getting it.' It is first just getting that it's a priority"-and older Republicans are getting that much. Candidates used to wait months into the campaign cycle to contact digital media consultants; now, they're calling as soon as they put together a team.

DeFeo has helped campaigns like JoinPatientsFirst.com combine online petitions with a bus tour and grassroots rallies at healthcare town halls: "The internet and the social web is a reflection of the personal connections that we have offline. . . . That synergy between the social web and socializing offline-I'm seeing it's real, it's vibrant, and it's true grassroots activism from the bottom up."

So will this mean survival of the hippest? "The internet has leveled the playing field for new candidates who want to reinvigorate the party," explains Katie Manzi, Chandra's 23-year-old director of communications. We are sitting at a local sports bar filled with more Facebook-drawn young Republicans than I have ever met in a single room in New York City. Chandra's young wife has shown me an iPhone video of their 2-year-old and we've talked iPhone apps-purchases she says Chandra takes care of.

The internet helps young politicians cut costs and reach a group outside mainstream GOP politics, like Chandra's Independent and Libertarian volunteers, Manzi says. Now politicians only need a name and not a mailing list to connect with likeminded people on Facebook.

"Republicans blame the media, and you can do that to a degree," says Manzi. "But at some point you have to take responsibility for your messaging."

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