by Jerome Armstrong, Thu Aug 10, 2006 at 05:57:11 AM EDT
Let's look at the impact of blogging in political campaigning, and we don't have to look specifically at the Lamont race, as there have been multiple instances now of a different campaign template emerging.
First, let me describe how the traditional campaign works, and allow me the broadstroke of generalities to make a few points about how blogs and the internet change the way campaigns are run. I'll call how campaigns are run for the most part now "modern campaigns" and would look back to their emergence over the decade of the 70's, when the television replaced the party for choosing candidates (The Permanent Campaign is the book to read on this matter).
And so over roughly the last 3-4 decades, modern campaigns were run by first getting a candidate, then polling for the voter temperature, lining up fundraising, getting endorsements from special interest groups and creating policy positions. That's what I would describe as the first stage. In the second stage, a campaign would begin filling up with field and communication staffers, stockpiling money, and reaching out to media outlets for earned media and debate. And finally, near the election, the field campaign would round up all of the volunteers to GOTV, and the campaign would blow all of it's money with broadcast television advertising and direct mail.
Let's call what works today the post-modern campaign, keying in specifically on what is new. In the first stage, a candidate reaches out to the base, and specifically over the internet, reaching out to bloggers, especially those most local. A campaign builds up it's listserve, the candidate aims to get buzz from the activists on the ground, and recognizes the local blogosphere as the pre-field organization of the campaign. At this stage, it's a very decentralized operation, and the candidate's message works because he's seen the movement rally around it, and everything going forward builds off of this base.
Moving into the second stage, when the campaign brings on field staff, they are integrated with the grassroots. The communication staff are in daily touch with the bloggers for message and tactics, and rapid response and oppo research. The Financers recognize that if they can get buzz and chatter and small donors, it's more than just noise and provides validation for the larger donors and funding organizations.
By the time we get around to the last stage of the campaign, I wouldn't argue that it's all that different. It's still mostly about TV commercials, direct mail, and GOTV. Certainly the campaign that recognizes the power of using niche media to reach the other 65% of the voters that don't watch broadcast television has an advantage. But bloggers are not as integral a part of the closing effort of the campaign, except in helping to rally troops, and some with rapid response (but can still be pushed around by the media mainstream memes).
That's the broad outline that brings out some differences that the blogs and internet make happen. I doubt it's exhaustive, but at least gives an indication of why they are powerful at especially the beginning stages of the campaign, but sort of recede in power as the campaign attempts to reach out to low info voters in the closing days.
If I were to go on with this, I think you could look toward the Jon Tester campaign for how specifically the net and blogs help with early field operations; the Webb campaign for how running a perfect template of what use to work just doesn't work (Harris Miller), and how Webb won through internet reach in NoVA, word of mouth, and earned media that began with blogger buzz; and the Lamont for doing rapid response, throwing off the opponents with oppo research and influencing the storyline of the campaign.
I'm continually amazed at how consultants that work in DC for Democratic candidates, whose only job is to win, don't recognize the strategical advantage that can be gained by embracing the netroots, niche media and re-learning how to target. It's not by looking to the past, and sticking with how they learned to do campaigns, and pretending that the world hasn't changed, that they will win.