Presidential Campaigns, Major Parties Reach Out to Bloggers

During the 2008 United States presidential campaign, politicians and political parties have responded to the increasing influence of bloggers like never before. Both the Democratic National Convention Committee and the Republican National Convention Committee have invited bloggers to attend this year’s national party conventions, each offering their own official blogger credentialing process, and accommodations in many ways similar to those traditionally offered to members of the mainstream media.

This is only the second time the two largest political parties in the nation have included bloggers among the press at their presidential conventions, and a far greater number of bloggers are being included at each venue this time around than were in 2004, when the Democratic National Convention Committee offered credentials to just over 30 bloggers, and the Republican National Convention Committee credentialed only 15.

Both the RNCC and the DNCC also now publish their own blogs, featuring convention-related news and information, and inviting visitors to leave comments.

Individual presidential candidates have also made much more of a point of courting bloggers’ attention this time around. Fairly early on in the primary season, many presidential candidates began adding bloggers to their press release email lists. And the Democratic and Republican presumptive nominees have continued to reach out to bloggers since the primaries ended. Both the McCain campaign and the Obama campaign have invited bloggers to conference calls with top campaign officials to discuss policy plans and positions on several key issues including the economy, health care, and national security. The McCain campaign has been particularly assertive in its conference call outreach, often featuring McCain himself on the calls, and inviting unabashedly left-leaning blogs (including, for a time, a political blog this author writes for, MOMocrats.com) to participate in the conference calls alongside conservative bloggers).

Barack Obama has ramped up his appeal to bloggers as well in recent months, for example, granting a video interview to the popular women’s blogging community BlogHer in which he answered several questions submitted by BlogHer’s community of writers and readers. (He also was gracious enough to answer some questions I helped gather from writers and readers on MOMocrats a few months ago.)

Of course, the internet is still an unfamiliar medium for many politicians and campaign staffers. As one might expect given the newness of the effort, the two main political parties’ unprecedented level of interaction bloggers during this election cycle has not proceeded without missteps and controversy.

For example, when the DNCC released its list of credentialed bloggers for the 2008 Democratic National Convention, some liberal bloggers accused the credentialing committee of not doing enough to represent bloggers of diverse racial and cultural backgrounds. And conservative bloggers complained that they felt excluded from the list, as well.

The RNCC has yet to release its official list of credentialed bloggers, and there is currently much speculation among political bloggers on all sides about whether the RNCC will follow the DNCC’s partisan lead and credential mostly conservative blogs, or take a different tack and embrace a greater diversity of political views among their credentialed bloggers.

The McCain campaign has also drawn some criticism recently for encouraging supporters to visit targeted liberal blogs such as Daily Kos and leave comments repeating talking points pre-chosen by the McCain campaign and posted on the campaign website. Critics claim this tactic may encourage cut-and-paste trolling instead of meaningful discussion; supporters of the practice maintain it’s a useful component of a successful blog outreach strategy that will empower campaign supporters to get undecided voters access to more information about the candidate.

Have you been contacted by a political campaign recently, or been given the opportunity to participate in a conference call? The St. Louis Bloggers Guild would like to hear from local bloggers who’ve had their own experiences with the the new, more serious approach to interacting with bloggers being tested by the political powers that be. If you have any interesting stories to share about being approached (or snubbed) recently by a political party or politician, please leave a summary or a link in the comments!

This entry posted by Jaelithe, a St. Louis native who writes about politics at MOMocrats.com, and writes about everything else at her personal blog, The State of Discontent.

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