The field of Republican presidential candidates has yet to cash in on the power of Internet fundraising and outreach, significantly lagging behind their Democratic counterparts.
"There's a disconnect," said David All, the first Republican consultant to focus exclusively on Internet strategy. "Every Democratic presidential campaign decision involves their Internet strategy. They get it. The Republicans still need to find a way to target their message online."
Mr. All says that online contributions are especially important because they come from nontraditional donors.
"Even if you're just getting $10, it's very valuable to the person giving if they don't have a lot of money," he said. And, Mr. All points out, with any donation, regardless of size, comes a virtual guarantee of voter support.
The exception to Republican online fundraising woes so far is former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, whose $7.2 million raised online placed him atop the entire presidential field.
But Democrats dominated after him, with Sen. Barack Obama, Illinois Democrat, raising $6.9 million online, followed by New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton with $4.2 million online and former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards at $3 million online.
Republican presidential aspirants Rudolph W. Giuliani and Arizona Sen. John McCain both have declined to release their online fundraising numbers, but sources at both camps yesterday said their online totals were between $1 million to $1.5 million.
Despite the glaring online disparity, particularly among Republicans, several observers question the validity of Mr. Romney's numbers. Andrew Rasiej and Micah L. Sifry of the Personal Democracy Forum, a Web site that focuses on the intersection of technology and politics, say those numbers are more gimmick than evidence that the Romney campaign has established a blueprint for conservatives online.
That's because Mr. Romney's online fundraising is split between $3,365,625.59 in "pure" online donations and another $3,840,591.00 collected via "Quick ComMitt," an online fundraising tool used by the campaign.
Others have speculated that the Romney campaign has filtered donations from already established donors through Quick ComMitt. Nonetheless, even if only the first bracket of numbers are counted, Mr. Romney still more than doubled the totals of his nearest Republican rival.
During the 2000 presidential campaign, Mr. McCain had a then-unprecedented online fundraising surge after the New Hampshire primary, when supporters donated $1 million to his campaign through the Internet in less than 24 hours.