Mr.SAAS Goes to Washington

Two presidential campaigns are outsourcing down-and-dirty IT tasks to the Internet. 

For all the attention the Democrats have received for better leveraging the Internet in this year's national elections, it may turn out that the Republicans have the last laugh with SAAS, at least when it comes to Election 2.0 bragging rights.

The 2004 elections were all about how the Dems got the drop, if not the victory, on the Republicans by deploying social networking tools to reap contributions, support and votes. While Howard Dean's dream of the presidency came to a screeching halt in Iowa four years ago, his online campaign design was early proof of the power of social networking before Facebook even thought of going public.

Creating an online infrastructure is the nightmare of all job assignments faced by political campaign managers, involving expensive hardware, pricey software with upfront licenses and IT consultants with harrowing hourly fees. Not to mention overeager and well intentioned but woefully untrained volunteers crashing campaign systems from coast to coast.

It all has to be switched on yesterday and may collapse tomorrow. The data may or may not be secure. You may end up out of work or be the next technology czar of the United States.

Unlike the Democrats and even most of their own fellow Republican candidates for the presidency, Mitt Romney and Ron Paul decided to tweak the system in 2008, overlaying a service model template on campaign online operations. When a race to the White House can evaporate in an expensive second and every dollar is precious, why not just rent the IT infrastructure?

"If you think about SAAS [software as a service] as a business model [for a political campaign], it's a no-brainer." says Dan Burton,'s senior vice president of global public policy. "Running a campaign is like running a business."