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The rules are changing - Joel Hall

I am very glad to be alive right now, because I feel like I am witnessing the most interesting political race in history.

The fact that a woman and an African-American man have a real chance of winning the presidency is very interesting. However, what is even more interesting to me is how this presidential race has probably changed the way that campaigns will be run for decades to come.

For better or worse, technology is changing everything.

Ever since presidential debates have been televised, the major news networks have held a significant sway over the vote. For the last few years, CNN and Fox News have emerged as the gatekeepers for the Left and Right, respectively. In the past, not enough airtime from CNN, or a bad prediction from Fox News, could destroy a candidate's campaign.

The Internet, however, has allowed people to get their information from everywhere and shaken the stranglehold mainstream media has held on peoples' opinions.

I must admit, I derived some joy watching CNN cover Mike Huckabee's sweep in the Georgia Republican primary. CNN had pegged John McCain as the winner in almost every state. When the numbers came in, however, the news anchors were scrambling for words.

There was almost a look of, "We didn't say that this could happen ... how could this happen?" on the faces of almost everyone. The same could be said for the Fox News coverage of Barack Obama's success during the primary.

The on-air conversations between Fox News anchors went something like, "Of course, Obama is winning Georgia because all of those black people, but he won't get the more rural states ... wait, he's getting a lot of those mostly-white states, too ... Alaska?! ... what in the world is going on?"

Before the Internet was employed as an effective campaign tool, candidates with the most money could drown their opponents in negative television ads and massive numbers of campaign signs.

Now, the use of television ads and campaign signs are minimal, and candidates are turning more toward the Internet to raise funds and spread their message. The Ron Paul phenomenon is a prime example of someone who has been able to skip the $1,000 chicken dinners and use the Internet to his financial benefit.

Another byproduct of the extensive use of the Internet in this campaign is all of the free advertising. In the past, candidates had to depend on their campaign staff to come up with ways to reach people, but with the Internet, the entire populous can potentially campaign on their behalf.

Viral web sensations, such as the "Obama Girl" video and the "Yes, We Can," New Hampshire primary speech by Obama, set to music by Black Eyed Peas front man "will.i.am," have been a tremendous boost to Obama's campaign -- free of charge. Videos such as those have allowed candidates to have influence and reach in places where they once never could.

There are some obvious negatives to the Internet being such an intricate part of the campaign, however. The scattershot of random public concerns expressed during the YouTube debates sometimes drowns out important topics like the deficit and the environment.

Unfounded, negative rumors, such as Obama being a terrorist implant, can also spread like wildfire with no way of stopping them.

However, the Internet has made "old money" less important and made the presidency a little less predictable, something every candidate has the potential to benefit from.