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Earlier today, I had an opportunity to participate in a conference call involving the John McCain campaign and several prominent bloggers. David All live-blogged the event, in which the McCain staff solicited our unvarnished opinions regarding McCain, his campaign efforts, his prospects for promotion through the blogosphere, and what we felt we would need from his campaign.
I won't attempt to recreate David's excellent coverage, so I'll give you my overall evaluation of the event. It shows that McCain and his staff understand the need to address the skepticism (and in some cases, outright hostility) of the conservative blogosphere. Even though McCain enjoys a substantial level of support among voters at the moment, his numbers among blog readers have been abysmal. One person on the call noted that a recent straw poll put him at the same level as Fred Dalton Thompson, who is closer to running for an Emmy than for President.
In prior elections, none of this would have mattered much. Bloggers had been seen as little more than hobbyists, people whose opinions made an inconsequential impact in the larger scheme of political campaigns. That has changed after the experience in the midterms, apparently. The presidential campaigns seem especially interested in bloggers as a direct conduit to voters, especially those with established credibility. That recognition appears universal even at this early stage of the primary campaign, as all three leading GOP campaigns have hired "new media" liaisons and aggressively courted coverage of their candidates.
All of this is good news, not just for bloggers but for the American political scene. One of the staffers on the call predicted that this will be the most transparent presidential campaign in American history, and he's correct. YouTube, Blackberries, and instant podcasting will mean every appearance has potentially national implications, and no matter how intimate the venue, the message from it can have the widest possible broadcast. He referenced bloggers as the "referees" in this process, and to some extent that will be true -- which means that the campaigns will want to stay close to us throughout the next two years.
That said, we have to make sure that the blogosphere understands its role. Already we have seen a blizzard of gotcha moments zipping into our e-mail boxes. Position points and contrasts are always welcome, but other tips seem more intended towards a darker, more negative tilt, and not simply from the campaigns themselves. If the blogosphere wants to maintain a position of credibility, then we cannot be seen as the mud factory of the elections, especially in the primary. Campaigns (for President or anything else) that want to use blogger credibility as a channel to reach the voters need to be careful of using bloggers to bubble attack memes up to the surface.
Bloggers have their best opportunity yet to shape and influence the debates that make up a presidential campaign. We have to remain vigilant about remaining credible if we want to make the most of it. If we want a campaign about issues and philosophical direction, then we have to have the discipline to focus on those topics, and to eschew anything that detracts from it. If successful, we can make this the most transparent and responsible election in memory.Sphere It View blog reactions
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» McCain and Blog Outreach from The Bivings Report
Yesterday David All live blogged a conference call the John McCain's campaign staff had with conservative bloggers. Captain Ed from the conservative blog, Captain's Quarters, posted his insights as well. I think there are a couple o... [Read More]
Tracked on February 7, 2007 1:41 PM
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