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Web Helped the Decision Go to Jesse 'The Body' Ventura

November 09, 1998|GREG MILLER

Fifteen years ago, he was best known for his exploits in the World Wrestling Federation. But in winning the race for governor of Minnesota last week, Jesse "The Body" Ventura showed he also knows how to outmaneuver opponents on the World Wide Web.

The Minnesota gubernatorial race was so closely contested that Ventura's campaign officials say their use of the new medium was key to eking out a slim victory over two mainstream political opponents.

"The Internet was crucial," said Phil Madsen, who created and managed the candidate's Web site. "Without it, we would not have won."

But like most campaigns that used the Net effectively, Ventura depended on it less to get his message out than to mobilize and organize his backers. And the centerpiece of the digital campaign was "JesseNet," an electronic mailing list of 3,000 supporters.

The list was critical, Madsen said, to the success of a last-minute bus tour of the state by Ventura. More than 250 people turned out and volunteered to make phone calls, drive cars and otherwise contribute to the tour following an e-mail request just eight days before the election.

Throughout the tour, regional supporters checked the Web site for instructions in setting up rallies, and there was even a "Geek Squad" responsible for videotaping each event and loading footage onto the Web.

The campaign also raised about $50,000 in contributions and $40,000 more in private loans from individuals--all solicited through e-mail and on the Web site.

But the digital campaign ended with a fitting postscript for a candidate whose wrestling matches often resulted in opponents' being pinned by the sheer heft of The Body.

"The whole world seems to be looking at the Jesse Ventura Web site right now," Madsen said last Thursday, "and our server has crashed."

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