Thursday, November 16th, 2006
Did blogs make or break this election? Three views.
Harry Reid to Kossites: “Thank you for everything you have done. Without the netroots, Democrats would not be in the position we are in today. It is as simple as that.”
And Nick Confessore says,
As the smoke began to clear after Election Day, two things seemed clear. Though the netroots have forever changed how campaigns raise money and find votes, the results demonstrated that they cannot yet win elections on their own. But the Democratic Party cannot win major national elections without the netroots.
‘The establishment needs them, and they need the establishment,’ said Carol C. Darr, director of the Institute for Politics, Democracy and the Internet at George Washington University.
Like the music obsessives who plunked down $500 for first-generation iPods, Web-based activists served as the party’s early adopters in 2006, just as they provided much of the early money and vigor behind Howard Dean’s 2004 presidential campaign. This year, they coalesced around dozens of House and Senate candidates in highly unfavorable states or Congressional districts, showering them with seed donations and praise while softening up G.O.P. incumbents with amateur opposition research, campaign stunts and homemade Web advertising.
Answerable to no one in particular, they could sometimes go off-key: During the Democratic primary, a blog supporting Mr. Lamont put up an altered photograph of Mr. Lieberman showing the senator in blackface, much to Mr. Lamont’s embarrassment.
They were also sometimes poor judges of what will sell in the larger political marketplace; most of the 19 netroots-supported candidates listed on ActBlue, an online clearinghouse for donations to Democrats, lost on Tuesday. But the online activists also gave some once-underrated candidates ‘ like the Senate candidates Jon Tester and Jim Webb, in Montana and Virginia, respectively, and the House candidates Paul Hodes in New Hampshire and Joe Sestak in Pennsylvania ‘ a chance to be taken seriously. All ended up winning on Tuesday.
‘It was the early support, the attention ‘ the ability to create opportunities for candidates to break out with energy and passion,’ said Jonah Seiger, a Democratic Internet strategist.
Thanks in part to the netroots, said Mr. Seiger, the more promising candidates got a second or third look from the mainstream news media, major donors and party officials, especially as the political environment became increasingly unfavorable to Republicans.
Mr. Webb, for example, was essentially drafted last winter by a network of national and Virginia-based netroots activists, who later helped him gather 10,000 signatures in three weeks to get on the Democratic primary ballot.
‘They’re a group of people who put their money where their mouth is,’ said Jessica Vanden Berg, Mr. Webb’s campaign manager. ‘They gave Jim ‘ who didn’t have a campaign staff in the beginning or a financial base ‘ they gave him a political base to jump from.’
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee would go on to endorse Mr. Webb in the primary, and later poured nearly $7 million into his race against Republican George Allen, who conceded on Thursday, cementing the Democrats’ new Senate majority.
In some cases, the party even got behind some netroots-favored candidates that it had previously ignored or discouraged. In California’s 11th district, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee initially backed Steve Filson, a Navy veteran, over Gerald McNerney, the chief executive of a wind-turbine company who had the support of the Internet grass roots. But after Mr. McNerney won the primary, the committee spent half a million dollars on the general election. He won.
Of course, it’s difficult to say what particular factor provided the edge in a close race. But last week, onetime antagonists seemed willing to share credit for the Democratic sweep. Shortly before 9 a.m. on Election Day, Harry Reid, the Senate minority leader ‘ and soon to be majority leader ‘ posted an entry on the popular liberal blog Daily Kos, titled ‘You got us here.’ Without the netroots, Mr. Reid wrote, ‘Democrats would not be in the position we are in today.’
Meanwhile, one (deeply in denial) Harry Jaffe opines, “Except in a few races, the outcome of last week’s midterm election was determined in large part by the Mainstream Media. Bloggers and Internet chatters posing as journalists were not in the game…. Blogs were not a factor in forming views on the war in Iraq.”