Submitted by J.R. Hoeft on Wed, 05/27/2009 - 08:19
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 BearingDrift.com