Democratic Debate – Capitalizing on Heated Exchanges

This is the third installment of our ongoing series about the evolving 2008 Presidential Campaign and how it’s being waged online. This time we’ll be talking about capitalizing on news events, such as the presidential debates.

Last night in South Carolina, the Democratic presidential candidates were part of a heated debate that was rather exciting to watch – that is, as far as debates go.

The candidates exchanged blows on a variety of topics, from the war in Iraq, to poverty, to education, and for the most part, these exchanges came from, and were directed at, Obama and Clinton. Throughout the debate, both Clinton and Obama eloquently defended their stances on the topics discussed, and from what I saw, there was no clear winner.

Those that saw the debate may have a different opinion as to whether or not one particular candidate came out on top, but they, along with those who only saw a portion of it, or for those who missed it entirely, may decide to follow up today for more information on the debate.

Over the years, politicians have gotten better at capitalizing on the Web as a means to reach and engage potential voters, but they still have a ways to go.

Here’s an example:

I’m assuming that numerous people will be turning to the search engines to read up on the debate that took place last night. For these types of news stories, Google has been increasingly integrating results from its various verticals into its main index. For instance, here you’ll see that the top listing for the term “democratic debates” was pulled from Google News:

What’s missing here?

Looking at the top and right of these results, you can see that there are no sponsored listings. Users who wish to find more information on Democratic debates are provided with news stories from Google News, CNN and ABC News (along with a Wikipedia page, of course).

When it comes to Google users, the Democratic presidential candidates are at the mercy of the authors of these news stories to convey their respective messages. This is the case for a variety of different terms.

In all fairness, though, when dropping the ‘s’ from my previous term, you will see that Obama’s campaign is in fact bidding on the term, “democratic debate”:

This is what I mean when I say that politicians have made progress when it comes to capitalizing on the Web, and in particular, the search engines. There is certainly still room for improvement, however.

These candidates are spending millions of dollars on their political campaigns. Why not set aside some of that money in order to gain a substantial and consistent presence in the search engines, and capitalize on the potential to act quickly and establish visibility for queries relevant to such current events?

By doing so, they will benefit from having some degree of influence on the information and message communicated for a wide range of important and popular topics.