WASHINGTON -- Strategists for Ned Lamont convened a discreet meeting in February with a covey of influential opinion brokers who would help electrify the Connecticut Democrat's insurgent campaign for U.S. Senate.
The invited guests were bloggers. Lowell resident Stirling Newberry was among them.
The session occurred as Lamont was trying to position himself in the powerful undertow of Democratic discontent that swept him past centrist Sen. Joseph Lieberman in the party primary last month.
Although Internet rumblings had for months been agitating for the electoral overthrow of Lieberman, a pro-Iraq war incumbent seen by some as too cozy with Republicans, Lamont's political skill was unknown. The bloggers needed convincing and Lamont had the sales pitch. He recorded an Internet video as they watched.
The exercise was not only a measure of his camera presence -- needed to beat an entrenched incumbent -- but could be used immediately in the initial task of collecting support so Lamont's name could appear on the primary ballot.
"If you don't look good on TV, you can't win support," said Newberry, who was impressed by Lamont and his campaign strategy revealed at the meeting. "That was enough to convince me this was a serious campaign."
Newberry, 39, gained prominence among liberal strands of Internet politicos in 2003 by helping launch a sweeping online movement that promoted Wesley Clark as a presidential candidate -- a call to arms the retired general could not resist.
It was an early watermark of the blogosphere's impact on politics, though overshadowed by Howard Dean's tenacious online supporters.
This year, Newberry and other bloggers like Matt Stoller helped set a new mark with the Lamont campaign.
Tapping into a large base of energetic activists across the country, often referred to as the netroots, bloggers helped nationalize Lamont's stature as a credible progressive who could upend the established political machine.
"They were very helpful in introducing Ned to a broader audience," said Tom Swan, Lamont's
campaign manager, of the bloggers. "They helped establish a narrative within the campaign, and assisted in generating volunteers and a large number of small donors."
Blogs, or free-flowing online discussions, allow local activists to find each other and devour the latest news about their candidate's schedule, issues and opinions, says Newberry.
Those "high information" voters then scatter-blast the content around the Web and, perhaps more importantly, local communities.
Electronic connections turn into personal meetings, and then to on-the-ground political activism.
"Blogging reaches highly informed people," Newberry said. "We reach the people who can't get enough of something. We reach the people who have to get a fix on something."
Left in Lowell, a liberal blog operated by Lynne Lupien, illustrated that point last week when it reported that The Sun would endorse Christopher Gabrieli in the Democratic primary for governor -- the day before the newspaper printed the endorsement.
Lupien is active in Democratic gubernatorial nominee Deval Patrick's campaign, an effort that observers say resembles the Lamont campaign. Lupien credits the Left in Lowell blog for recruiting between eight and 10 "core supporters" who helped organize Patrick's campaign in Lowell and recruited other volunteers.
"There was barely any coverage (of Patrick) in the mainstream media until late in the summer," said Lupien, who posted an interview with Patrick more than a year ago.
Like Lamont, Patrick was the underdog. As recently as this spring, both candidates faced established same-party candidates with daunting poll numbers. Lamont, for example, trailed Lieberman in May by 46 percentage points.
Three months later, Lamont forced Lieberman to run as an independent in the general election, having beaten him in the primary by 4 percent of the vote. Patrick, too, emerged from Tuesday's primary as the pick of his party going into the general election.
"They surely made a difference," Christopher Lydon, host of "Open Source," a radio show based on listener input, said of bloggers' impact on the Lamont-Lieberman primary. "It was in a blog conversation that I first heard of Lamont, and many, many thousands of people did."
The attention helped fuel political contributions. Massachusetts residents gave Lamont $20,000 this year.
"I'm an angry middle-class, independent-minded voter," said Roland Van Liew of Chelmsford, who gave Lamont $1,000 in July. "Emphasis on the angry."
Though Newberry no longer blogs full time, it seems he'll continue to energize liberal voters. He still writes for The Agonist and TPM Café (short for talking points memo).
"It's a community," Newberry said. "And people want community just like the old-time coffee shops. Blogging provides an electronic analog to that."
Original source: http://www.lowellsun.com/front/ci_4380496
For more news about bloggings role in political campaigns read the article Why MPs need to stop spinning and start blogging which appared in the Guardian Unlimited, Sunday September 24. This is also an interesting article.