A New Age Dawns

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The CEO of Google, Eric Schmidt, has warned Republicans – pointedly – that they had better learn to use the internet effectively before the 2008 campaigns begin. If they do not, they will have a tough, uphill battle.

MIAMI (Reuters) – Google's chief executive offered some advice on Wednesday to Republicans looking ahead to the 2008 presidential contest: make better use of the Internet's electioneering power if you want to win next time.

"The ones that take advantage of this most effectively will be the ones that will be the winners of the next election," Google Chief Executive Eric Schmidt told Republican governors gathered in Miami.

He offered a few examples of how the Internet, especially video file-sharing sites like Google's newly acquired YouTube, had changed the political landscape by enabling anyone to disseminate information widely and instantly.

Schmidt said the Gulf kingdom of Bahrain got a taste in the run-up to its elections last weekend, when someone used the Google Earth satellite mapping feature to photograph the ruling family's lavish houses, and posted them on line, juxtaposed next to the homes of ordinary citizens.

The government tried to censor the photos, which instantly boosted their popularity, he said.

Democratic U.S. Rep. John Murtha of Pennsylvania felt the sting when somebody resurrected secretly recorded footage taken during the FBI's Abscam bribery sting in the late 1970s.

Murtha rejected a bribe offer from undercover agents dressed as Arab sheiks and was never charged during the investigation, but the video showed him telling the purported sheiks that "I want to deal with you guys a while before I make any transactions."

The footage was posted on YouTube and other Web sites just as Murtha was trying to persuade fellow Democratic representatives to elect him as their majority leader. He lost.

The lessons are out there, if the Republicans are smart enough to heed them. If they don't, they will be in trouble in very short order. And they need to act very, very quickly.

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