Are you an OPO?

From Jose Antonio Vargas at the WAPO:


Howard Dean's cometlike campaign in 2003 was the first to integrate the Internet into a presidential race, and Joe Rospars was there, a 22-year-old working as an "all-around Web guy" until the campaign suddenly collapsed.

Four years later, it's not just the upstarts, as Dean was, who have embraced online campaigning. And Rospars is part of a new generation of strategists who share a passionate belief that they can transform not just individual campaigns but also politics itself...

For these online political operatives -- or OPOs, as a few have taken to calling themselves -- the Internet isn't just a tool. It's a strategy, a whole new way of campaigning, a form of communication, from blogs to MySpace to YouTube, with far more potential than the old media of print and television. "TV is a passive experience, and the Internet is all about interactivity, all about making a direct connection," said Rospars, waxing expansive in the way all the OPOs tend to do.

Yet if it's understood that the Internet has a role to play in the 2008 presidential campaign -- voters are increasingly going online to find out more about the candidates, donate money and join networking sites, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project -- it's not yet clear how large the role of the OPOs will be. And the struggle between them and more traditional campaign operatives for influence over their candidates is likely to be a subtext at every headquarters, Republican and Democratic, in the next year and a half.