Frist using 2008 volunteers in 2006

Bill Frist tried to take a little credit for tracking down the missing holding Senator. Note how he praises his volunteers:

Led by sites like PorkBusters, TPM Muckraker, and GOP Progress, online activists across the political spectrum have worked to clear away the obstruction against this bill through hard work and the process of elimination. While the count is still climbing, they have publicly received a response from 89 Senators regarding the secret hold – and I’m proud to say that members of my online grassroots organization, the iFrist Volunteers, have made a major contribution to this effort in calling Senators and securing their promise they have not held up the bill, nor will they hold up the bill. The growing success of this effort perfectly demonstrates the value of the database that S. 2590 would create … because it proves that Americans with a passion for citizen journalism and empowered by technology can cooperate across party lines to make a real difference.

This is a big deal. He is trying to use his volunteer organization now to help his future candidacy. (Does anyone take that candidacy seriously??) Now why is this useful?

Hotlineblog said that it is a way to “train” volunteers for 2008. I think that it is as much about using the tool to identify and reward volunteers (and maybe turn them into campaign staff). They address this more directly in their comparison of MyGOP to the DNC’s PartyBuilder:

Most important is to check out how each party gathers information about the user. The RNC has different logins for different features, such as the blog, personal homepage and volunteer recruitment center. It’s a model for different levels of engagement and getting lots of names without shoving committment into a user’s face — and typically getting a larger drop-off rate in return. The DNC takes a different approach. By singing up with Party Builder, the DNC gets basic information in the login and then collects information through the user’s profile, signed petitions, signed letters to the editor and their network/group memberships. So why do we care? These users are the party’s next loyal supporter and volunteer. And how much information the parties have on these folk will determine the strength of their online activism in ’06 and ’08, which is conveniently transferable to field staffs across the country.

(just to make it clear, the RNC gets this information, just differently) And that is why iFrist is so interesting. He is both getting mileage out of his volunteer base now, keeping them engaged (got a volunteer, give them something to do!), and figuring out which ones deliver and need to be promoted within the campaign. That’s very smart.