State and Federal office-holder outreach to new media is like day and night

J.R. Hoeft (of Bearing Drift) is the most important conservative political blogger in Virginia.  Virginia congressional Republicans should be talking to him and many other Virginia bloggers all the time.  If they are not doing so, that is gross communications negligence.  But it's a problem that persists among many Republican politicians.  That needs to change.  Republicans need to grow much more comfortable with online communications, and they've got to do it fast.  The internet is the modern public square, and if you do not show up to defend and define yourself online, you will be defined by those who do show up. - Jon Henke

The Republican Party of Virginia has had a rather up-and-down relationship with Virginia’s conservative bloggers. Fortunately, conservative bloggers have strong relationships with state-level elected officials and candidates, such as Bob McDonnell, Bill Bolling, Bill Howell, and the three AG campaigns.

However, while the state and local relationships are good, the outreach from the GOP at the federal level has been largely non-existent. Consider:

Bill Bolling hosts a “Bloggers’ Day” at the capitol, and includes strategy seminars and exclusive briefings.

Congressional staffs do very little outreach, and, generally, have to be contacted by the blogger.

Tucker Martin, Bob McDonnell’s spokesman, calls up bloggers, peppers them with emails and tips them to stories throughout the week.

Congressional staffs send out press releases.

The Virginia House GOP Caucus has a blog and posts videos, podcasts, and other exclusive content.

The National Republican Campaign committee sends out press releases that attack sitting House members.

Notice the difference?

There is a chasm between the level of media engagement of the state Republicans and the federal Republicans.

Federal Republicans are passive. They are willing to answer questions from bloggers, they send press release materials, and they produce an occasional cute video that lampoons Democratic leadership. But, by and large, federal officeholders ignore the new media as another outreach tool to their constituency. Or at least, they ignore Virginia blogs.

At Bearing Drift, we’re lucky to have a relationship established with the communications directors for each Republican member of the Virginia congressional delegation. When there is a national issue that we have an interest in, we generally are able to communicate with these staffers and they give us quotes and other material for our posts. They also ensure that we receive their releases. And, for the most part, we’ve been able to schedule interviews with the congressmen.

But that’s generally the extent of our relationship. The staffers wait for the phone call or email - they almost never reach out, unless they are trying to sell the blogger on something.

This past week, when North Korea detonated their nuclear device…..nothing from any congressional office.

When Rep. Rick Boucher (D-VA09) makes news on energy issues, or Rep. James Moran (D-VA08) proposes legislation to limit the scope of ED ads on TV, or Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA03) is rumored as a possible SCOTUS appointment, or Sen. Mark Warner (D) proposes legislation to limit robo-calls, nothing from any Virginia Republican Congressman for conservative bloggers in Virginia.

When Pres. Barack Obama delivers a major address on national security, no response for Virginia’s conservative blog readers from any staff member.

Compare this to the constant and conscientious engagement being done by Republicans at the state level, and it’s like night and day.

Our Virginia Republican Representatives and their staff are sitting just a stone’s throw from Capitol Hill at the Rayburn Office building…if not wandering the gallery or the halls of Congress themselves. They know what’s being discussed. They know the issues that are going to become national news and how it might affect Virginia. But it’s only rarely being shared.

One would think there would be more friendly outreach to bloggers throughout Virginia on a wide range of issues. They love to take time for the “District Work Periods”, so one would think they would be eager to engage their constituency online, as well.

But other than on a few occasional issues, Congressional Republicans are not really talking to conservative bloggers in Virginia.

Virginia’s Congressional Republicans should take a lesson from the state and local Republican elected officials. Listen to us, talk to us. Show up.

The media are not your constituents. We are. And so far, the message we get from Virginia’s Republican Congressional delegation is “we don’t really have anything to say.”

Cross-posted at

Should we criminalize Daily Kos?

Or Free Republic, for that matter?  Well, Linda Sanchez (D) thinks it might be a good idea.

(a) Whoever transmits in interstate or foreign commerce any communication, with the intent to coerce, intimidate, harass, or cause substantial emotional distress to a person, using electronic means to support severe, repeated, and hostile behavior, shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than two years, or both.

So, let me see if I understand this.  If I go onto Daily Kos and start accusing the posters of being godless communists bent on destroying the USA, using withering inflammatory insults ("severe" and "hostile"), and I do so in a "repeated" manner, then according to Sanchez I should be thrown in jail.

Of course the intention is to stop 'cyber-bullying' among kids.  But here is a pretty obvious case where the proposed action upon the intention will have significant unintended consequences that threaten everyone's liberty.

H/T: Corner, Volokh

Blog traffic

This is interesting:

Instapundit isn't doing too bad, either, with his daily traffic up to 376,000/day. The traffic trends of Daily Kos and Hot Air are even more interesting...

Daily Kos

  • April '08: 29,262,488 (visits)
  • March '09: 23,987,984
  • Traffic: -5,274,504

Hot Air

  • April '08: 7,616,673 (visits)
  • March '09: 17,897,554
  • Traffic: +10,280,881

Last month, Simon Owens found that post-election blog traffic declined 58% on the Left, compared to 36% on the Right.

There is no simple explanation for this.  Obviously, the Left's higher baseline and more contentious 2008 primary/election season plays a part.  But I suspect we'll be rediscovering something we had previously learned in the 90's and 00's: the internet is good for insurgencies and opposition.

Everyone and their mother are on social networking sites

Everyone knows the term “social networking” or “social networks” by now. Most people are a member of a social site weather it be myspace, friendster, or some other site. There are literally 1000’s of different social sites. Some are more social than others and some probably shouldn’t even call themselves “social. but since that’s the big thing now days, everyone jumps on the bandwagon.

Basically it’s come to the point where everyone and every different group has their own little online club. They are generally broken down in the following ways.

The first, and biggest social groups are general sites like myspace where anyone and everyone signs up. There is no deciding factor on who should signup. If you’re looking to meet people in your area, Myspace is usually your best bet because of its HUGE userbase. I don’t know the exact number of members, but they have millions. Each town you can find 1000’s of your peers with an account, even tiny towns have a good presence on the site.

Second, you have social sites that target by race or religion, or even sexual preference and even, like this site, political preferences. These are definitely smaller than normal social sites but the members also seem to have a much tighter bond. Sort of like a small town feel where everyone knows everyone.

Third you have geo-location social sites. For example we have one in my town called Fort Myers Business Networking. I’m not a member myself because they charge money and I’m definitely not going to pay for something that should be free. But most decent sized towns do have social sites, just search Google for something like “[your town] social” and things will pop up.

Weather you like it or not social sites are going to remain popular. Just like social groups in real life have always been around, we will always have social sites on the web too.

Messaging, Mobilization and Money

Pete Daou and I appear to be reading from the same playbook.  At TechPresident, he writes many of the things I've been arguing for some time.

The pyramid of Internet political functions consists of message (communications), money (fundraising) and mobilization. Atop that pyramid sits communications. Message drives money and triggers mobilization. Devoid of a compelling message to spur their use, the most advanced web tools will lie fallow. The impetus to use technology is always external to the technology; the impulse to connect and contribute begins with the inspiration to do so and the inspiration derives from the message.

Daou is exactly right about the three points on the internet pyramid, and they are exactly the elements I named in my first post at The Next Right.  In another post about Obama's integrated new media campaign, I laid out the impact of blogs as follows...

  • Messaging - communication, particularly targeted to specific audiences and influentials, rather than mass communication
  • Mobilization - community development and reinforcement, online-to-offline activism; individual mobilization can be due to direct campaign contact, peer relationships, or general community influence
  • Money - good fundraising is the result of doing #1 and #2 effectively; donations can reflect an investment in the ideas (#1), or in the relationship/movement (#2)

However, while I agree with Daou that mobilization and money are subsidiaries to message, I would argue that mobilization should be divided into two distinct areas.

  • Activist mobilization is tangible, direct participation in politics; things like cavassing, voting, phone banking, volunteering and other political advocacy.  Activist mobilization is a tangible, direct participation in politics. 
  • Community mobilization is conceptual buy-in; it is the organization of people around ideas, themes, priorities, ways of thinking.  Community mobilization makes people available and positioned for activist mobilization.

To put this in terms of the modern Left: progressives felt poitically powerless even during the 90's, they developed unifying grievances in four areas (Democratic and Republican Parties, the government and the media), and began messaging about those problems and their solutions.  As a result of the Left's powerful online information activism, millions of people organized around the progressive's themes and agenda.  That was community mobilization. 

It was only after those themes had been spread to, and accepted by, a large community (activists, philanthropists, media, politicians, and the general public) that the Left could create effective activist mobilization. 

Good tools are a force-multiplier, but they are not a shortcut.


Everybody agrees the GOP must become more web savvy and that a better connection has to be made to conservatives online. Few would also argue with the notion that efforts must be made to catch up to the Democrats in online fundraising and organization. But then we have the problem with the Republican party itself and its refusal to get serious about the kinds of reforms that would make a conservative like me proud to belong once again.- Rick Moran 
If you spend any time reading popular right wing blogs these days it is easy to get a sense of doom and gloom about the near future of the Republican Party. But it really isn’t that bad. We are only 4 years removed from owning the White House, the Senate and Congress. Granted it hurts now because we have lost those, but not by a historic amount. The vote was 52%-46%. And let’s not forget the nation still considers itself center-right.
When we look beyond the presidential to local election results we see that many of the newly elected congressional members while democrat, would probably be better described as blue dogs, who were elected in essentially conservative districts. Did the nation really go through a sea change, or was it just a.) Fed up with Bush and b.) Scared to death of the financial collapse?
Republicans can actually take some comfort in the way Obama ran for office and is beginning to (almost) govern. He ran as someone who would cut taxes and limit wasteful spending. Now, as he fleshes out his staff, he is filling it with economic moderates who seem to support essentially pro-growth measures. The Democrats may have won, but they appear to have stolen the playbook. Conservative principles have been so successful that have been co-opted.
The Republicans certainly need some time to regroup and get back on their feet electorally, but I would be surprised if this was anything more than the normal ebb and flow between left and right in a basically center nation.


News Consumption is Changing

The daily circulation of the top Newspapers in the country in 2008...


The daily circulation (visits) for Daily Kos...




The numbers are not perfectly equivalent, but they are striking, nonetheless.  This means something.

  • Top newspaper: 2.28 million
  • Top political blog: 2.68 million


Editorial: Honestly, is this the best that the Liberals can do?

There have been times, when I, as a Blogger, have wanted to bang my head on the desk. There are times, when I have become so frustrated at the level of stupidity being served by both sides of this political discourse, that I have seriously thought about just shutting this Blog down and disappearing into the mists of ether and finding something else to do. There are times, when I, as a Blogger, have shook my fist in righteous indignation at some of the things written by both sides of this political divide, that is called Politics.

However, this, my friends, is scraping the bottom of the proverbial barrel. It seems that the Liberal Blogging world, with it’s lack of substantive accusations against John McCain, has, in fact, began publishing stories about a topic, that normally would not even receive the light of day in a legitimate publication; His Shoes.

That is right ladies and Gentleman; the liberal bloggers are now publishing stories about John McCain’s shoes. This female blogger at the Huffington Post by the name of Isabel Wilkinson, whose political credentials are that of a Dallas cowboy cheerleader, wrote a rather vain piece about the kind of shoes that John McCain wears. I have to honestly wonder aloud, who in the Huffington Post was the recipient of this woman’s oral sex, for her to get that job as a writer. Because whoever they were, they hired a real winner here.

I am not a John McCain cheerleader, not by a long shot. However, this sort of lame attempt by the left to paint John McCain as some sort of out of touch, rich, elitist is about the lamest thing I have ever read, in a good long while. This ranks up there with the New York Times piece on the supposed affair that McCain was having with a lobbyist.

It is not that I am against criticizing John McCain, not at all. There are legitimate concerns that I have with McCain as well, his closeness to Bush, his ties to lobbyists, his wanting to bomb Iran, but to write an article about his shoes? How absurd. The left can much better than this, and they know it. The quicker they start doing that, the better, because right about now, they look like total idiots in my eyes, and I would imagine in the eyes many other people as well.

(H/T Memeorandum)

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Cross Posted @ Political Byline The Week in Blog

I’m late to posting this, as I’ve been traveling for a few days, but better late than never. The nice people at were kind enough to invite me to participate in Friday’s edition of The Week in Blog. I was joined by regular host Bill Scher of Liberal Oasis (to whom I am very grateful; he was very kind, patient and thoughtful).

I am particularly enjoying the commenters at, many of whom seem to think that, as far as monsters go, I'm tolerable.  My favorite, I think, is this one…

Overall, though, I think Jon did a good job of defending the indefensible. Hope he comes back.

Thanks!  I think.

How important are blogs?

How important are blogs and the internet media?

[Rep.] Putnam says the handhelds have actually broadened the horizons for a lot of his colleagues. The BlackBerry has increased the “comfort level” with the Internet in general, he says, “so you have members talking about what’s on Drudge or Town Hall or Red State.

The devices, he says, have “dragged members out of the Dark Ages and into the information age. You now have members conversant about blogs, online news sites, signed up for breaking news alerts. So they’re actually less insulated today ... than they were before BlackBerry.”

Politicians and political staff are inundated with information, so they necessarily have to create a cocoon around themselves and self-select the information they want to receive.  If they didn't do this, they would be overwhelmed.  Blogs are one of the few information sources that pierce that cocoon, whether with politicians and Congressional staffers, political departments and agencies, issue pundits/experts, or the media that cover all of them.

In light of that, think about this:

  • How much money is spent on advertising in publications and billboards that are likely to be read by members of Congress and Congressional staff?   [Hint: a lot]  
  • How much time is spent talking to reporters and pundits about information being considered in Congress?  [Hint: also a lot]

 As much as blogs and the internet media have developed, they are still an under-developed market with enormous untapped potential.

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