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February 9, 2007
CBS News On McCain Outreach

CBS News interviewed me after the conference call hosted by the John McCain campaign, involving several prominent conservative bloggers, including myself. David Miller interviewed Power Line's Paul Mirengoff as well, and wrote an interesting article about the intersection of political campaigns and independent bloggers -- a timely piece, given the controversy over John Edwards and his recent hires. Miller asked me what I thought the campaign hoped to accomplish by engaging with bloggers who had expressed serious criticism of their candidate:

Republican John McCain's campaign faces a different problem: Despite leading in polls of GOP primary voters, many conservative bloggers don't like him and don't trust him.

In particular, they take issue with the campaign finance overhaul law he co-sponsored in 2002. A frequent complaint on blogs is that the measure curtails free speech and — hitting closer to home — contains provisions that threatened to severely restrict the activity of political blogs.

McCain also took heat from blog readers when he joined a bipartisan group to prevent a Senate rules change that would have ended filibusters on judicial nominees, and many are wary of him because, they say, he is too friendly with the "MSM" — mainstream media.

"I'm not going to say I'll never support the guy, but he would really have to convince me," Ed Morrissey, who writes for Captain's Quarters, told "I know, though, that some of my readers have already written they would stay home or vote for the Democrat if the Republicans went with McCain." ...

The conference call bore little resemblance to one between a campaign and traditional journalists. Many of the bloggers showed minimal restraint in telling Nelson and Weaver where they parted ways with the early GOP front-runner.

McLaughlin said the campaign went into the conference call with no illusions of persuading bloggers to support their candidate. "I don't think it was as much to smooth things over as to open up a dialogue," he said. "I don't think we can necessarily say what our expectations are."

I think they kept their expectations realistic, and I think they had a better idea what they wanted than this demurral indicates. They wanted to sound out the bloggers to get an idea whether we would keep an open mind about McCain, and whether they could expect a fair shake from us. None of what they did attempted to change our minds about our issues with the Senator; instead, they asked us for our advice on how they could engage with our readers.

Paul and John commented on this article briefly yesterday in a post wryly titled. "Overrated But Not Necessarily Inconsequential". Both of them made the point that while blogs such as ours tend to carry some weight within the blog community, including the readers, it doesn't necessarily follow that we have that much influence outside of that. Miller and I discussed the same point when we talked about the disparity between McCain's polling in the blogosphere and in the general population. Miller captures my thoughts in the final paragraph:

"The thing is, is that I think what they're afraid of is the fact that people who know and follow politics can influence people who don't," Morrissey said. "If you pick up a reputation among the people who are hyper-interested in politics of being a jerk, they're going to tell their friends and it's going to turn up in water cooler conversations."

My belief is that we act as opinion leaders, to some extent, by engaging with readers who take time to inform themselves on politics and current events. That represents a small percentage of the overall population -- between 8-12%, depending on the study and the year. Most will vote in elections, maybe comprising 15-20% of all voters, still a minority but definitely influential. However, the most influence we have will be indirect. People who feel the civic impulse to vote but don't find politics interesting will search out knowledgeable sources among family and friends, and the blog readers are natural resources for the undecided.

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Posted by Ed Morrissey at February 9, 2007 6:19 AM

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» McCain... Again... from The Politicker
Some bloggers around the sphere are taking a look at McCain. Some aren't political bloggers per se, and of course, some are liberal. But my opinion on McCain remains the same: I'll vote for Hillary before I vote for him,... [Read More]

Tracked on February 10, 2007 4:32 AM


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