McCain's blogger outreach gets passed media memes

Washington Times:

Even as talk radio was brutalizing Sen. John McCain in the Republican presidential primaries, conservative bloggers reached a respectful truce with the Arizona senator over touchy issues and gave him what the campaign called a "tremendous positive psychological" boost.

The main reason: Mr. McCain's blogger outreach, the most extensive of any presidential campaign in either party, helped keep him afloat in the dark days last summer when the major press was sizing up his campaign grave. During those times, Mr. McCain got attention and digital ink from the bloggers he invited to biweekly conference calls, and got a chance to talk policy.

"During the unpleasantness, whenever Senator McCain put himself in front of reporters, the question was always, 'How much did you raise today, when are you dropping out,' " said Patrick Hynes, a conservative blogger who Mr. McCain hired in 2006. "And then we'd put him on the phone with bloggers, and they'd want to talk about Iraq, and pork and chasing down al Qaeda."

For the campaign, it came down to deploying the campaign's best asset — Mr. McCain himself — in a forum where he can excel.

Mr. Hynes said the back-and-forth with bloggers took "a great deal of sting out of the criticisms" over immigration, Mr. McCain's push for campaign-finance changes and other areas where conservatives have registered their discontent with the senator, who has secured enough delegates to win the Republican Party's presidential nomination.

"It gave him a microphone when others had already left the building," said David All, one of the Republicans' Web pioneers who runs Slate Card.com and who said Mr. McCain has benefited from Mr. Hynes' ties to bloggers. "That very much symbolizes the role of bloggers: We don't have editors to report to, and there isn't a big meeting with editors every morning. What that comes down to is personal relationships."

It also helped that Mr. McCain treated bloggers similar to other reporters, including repeatedly inviting them to travel on the campaign bus with the press, said Matt Lewis, who blogs at TownHall.com.

"If anybody needed the blogosphere it was McCain," Mr. Lewis said, adding that Mr. McCain recently told bloggers he would continue to give them access throughout the campaign. "He essentially said, 'How could I not — there for a while this summer, you were the only people who talked to me.' "

...

McCain has started a trend with conservative bloggers that other campaigns are emulating. At the time it was a pretty courageous move, because bloggers were hammering him on immigration as much as talk radio was. It is Ironic that McCain is willing to talk with bloggers, but is reluctant to call Rush Limbaugh. If he did he would get a respectful conversation and asked some of the tough questions the bloggers asked him.

Conservatives initially were the early adapters on the web, but liberals and anti war pukes have in recent years had more passion and money raising skills. While their passion overtook their judgment, there lack of restraint has made them a target of ridicule by many on the right and it is deserved. Still conservatives need to make the investment in conservative blogs and spreading the message. The conservative organizations and think tanks needed to be more active in linking conservative blogs and spreading their message as a portal to other conservatives.

Every poll says that less than 20 percent of the country is liberal and more than 30 percent is conservative. We need to get that majority involved in reading conservative opinion and contributing to it.

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