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The decentralized, electronic campaign

The New York Times asks, Howard Dean's Internet Push: Where Will It Lead?.

Dr. Dean used the Internet to build a base of small donors and fund-raisers, a strategy that transformed a former governor from the 49th-largest state with no national fund-raising network into the best-financed Democrat in the presidential campaign. It has also recast the way many in Washington think about how money is raised. In a world in which the highest-spending candidate wins at least three quarters of the time, the curiosity among politicians and big contributors is understandable.

Many wonder whether Dr. Dean's success has cut a permanent path into politics for outsiders and whether many candidates will be willing to relinquish a degree of control over message and method, the approach that Dr. Dean used to build a decentralized Internet-based campaign.

Dr. Dean's Internet fund-raising presents the first new addition in years to time-tested strategies like direct mail, phone solicitation and events in restaurants and hotels that mix donors with candidates in exchange for a check.

It has many hoping for a new vein of money for cash-strapped party committees or Congressional challengers unable to finance a candidacy otherwise. "If you have the right issues and you can generate some excitement, you can rely on the small donor," said Representative Robert T. Matsui of California, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Skeptics argue that large numbers of small, anonymous donors will never eclipse high-dollar, face-to-face fund-raising. The story of Internet solicitation, they say, is one of isolated successes, and its current popularity will live or die on the fate of Dr. Dean's candidacy. Many also point to Senator John McCain, who had success raising money online in his 2000 presidential campaign but ultimately lost the race.