I think I have discovered the unknown ingredient in the current political campaign season and quite frankly, I discovered it in the most routine fashion. As with many discoveries, it should have been obvious.
My morning routine in the newspaper business is fairly consistent. Way back when, I would begin my day by pouring through a pile of Associated Press articles that covered everything from crop reports to sports news. And fact is, that remains part of my routine even today, though the technology of delivering that news has changed.
But much of my early morning routine involves reading Internet Web sites that range from golf to gossip and increasingly, politics. I have a set list of politically savvy Web sites that analyze the current campaign scene in great detail. When you begin to understand that you are just one of millions upon millions of daily users of these new sources of information, you begin to recognize that these new creatures may be the ingredient that has the greatest impact on the upcoming elections.
My daily political reading leans toward the conservative side of the spectrum. But I manage to read the left-leaning sites as well. And believe me, they are abundant.
Television (with the exception of Fox News), according to the survey results - has lost massive credibility in the political landscape. What was once our primary source of news has now lost much of its luster. Newspapers continue to generate the lion's share of detailed political analysis. But the younger generation who has grown up with computers is increasingly turning to the Internet for their political insight. And I don't think the political world has fully grasped this fact.
By and large, those who run national political campaigns are not of the Internet generation either. Granted, they don't ignore this amazing tool but they also don't put the emphasis there either. In other words, they tend to run traditional campaigns as have been run for generations.
But a huge segment of the population - more than you could imagine - turn daily to the Internet for their political news. And in that arena, the conservative right clearly has the advantage. Sites like the Drudge Report literally top the one billion hit level. That's a lot of traffic and a lot of information.
The older population - primarily those members of the Greatest Generation - are not typical Internet users. Their focus remains on nightly news and daily newspapers. But the growing number of younger voters - and not just the kids - are finding the Internet offers what they want and need.
If this trend grows - as it surely will - the next Presidential election could be fought entirely on the Internet. That's not so much a prediction as it is a promise.