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The Journal Notices

Monday, January 22, 2007  |  posted by Hugh Hewitt
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From this morning’s Wall Street Journal (subscription required):

While Democratic candidates appear hesitant to ignore online activists, Republicans hoping to win the 2008 nomination have been somewhat slower to embrace the online activist community. That may simply be because Republican candidates haven’t experienced the sort of online uprising that led to Mr. Dean’s early success in 2004 or Mr. Lieberman’s primary loss last year.

When Republican Sen. Sam Brownback of Kansas announced his candidacy on Saturday, he did it at a rally in Topeka. The Internet sites of both Arizona Sen. John McCain and former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani offer little more than a biography and links that enable supporters to sign up for more information or donate money.

Former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has poured more attention and money into his site. On the day he announced his exploratory committee, the campaign launched an Internet video feature dubbed “Mitt TV,” and began an outreach effort to right-leaning bloggers.

The Amy Schatz article correctly assesses the indifference to new media on the GOP side (with the exception being Governor Romney) which contrasts sharply with the rush to link up with the left’s netroots on the part of all of the major Democratic contenders.

Three explanations.

Occupying the White House leaves certain political muscles undeveloped.  The president gets all the attention he wants, even if it is unfavorable.  It tends to make its inhabitants less hungry, or overconfident of their abilities to generate interest.

Next, the Democrats have been using the tools of netroots advocacy to gain power for some time, while the GOP campaign elite –loyal to the president– has been using them to preserve power, which are very, very different virtual skills sets. 

Finally, Senator McCain is hostile to new media as one would expect from a candidate who has been so warmly embraced by old media in years past.  It is like asking a Cardinal in line for the papacy at the time of the Reformation what he thought of Luther.  Senator McCain can’t even bring himself to engage talk radio beyond Bill Bennett’s program, so it hardly likely that he will wade into the blogosphere beyond sending a post or two to Powerline and CaptainsQuarters.  The possibility that Mayor Giuliani may not even run is growing, and his lack of online organization feeds that buzz.

As the article notes, Governor Romney is very engaged with the virtual world and effectively so, much to his advantage.  No doubt he is hoping that Senato McCain continues to demonstrate indifference (at best) to new media and the online world.  Meanwhile independent blog activity on behalf of Romney (Article 6 Blog, Evangelicals for Mitt, MyManMitt etc) are a sign of genuine enthusiasm for the candidate they promote.  The MSM might want to try and figure out where the McCain blogs are, and if their absence –the hired hands at AnkleBitingPundits, talented though Patrick is, don’t count– portends anything about Iowa and beyond.

Booster blogs are a sign of genuine enthusiasm and commitment.  Senator McCain hasn’t yet generated either among the base, and he doesn’t seem interested in generating it.  (Meet The Press isn’t the place to create it either.)  The lead that Romney opened in fundraising is impossible to close for anyone other than McCain or Giuliani, and McCain isn’t even in the race for the virtual primary.

This post will cue the one or two McCain commentators below to accuse me (and Dean) of running a pro-Romney site, or of pushing my (not-yet-published) book.  But here’s a challenge for the non-pre-teens: Post a link to an active, well trafficked pro-McCain blog not paid for by the McCain team.  I am happy to be proven wrong. (Mayor Giuliani has some fine self-generated blog support, such as Giuliani Blog and Flap’s Blog. And Rudy is out and about on the radio trail, welcoming the conversations with center-right hosts, not refusing them.)

The McCain Campaign remains a Beltway phenomenon, with very little in the way to suggest it will have reach into Iowa, New Hampshire or beyond.

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