Soren citing: What blog outreach is for

Steve Dinan at the Washington Times writes about John McCain’s campaign’s blog outreach strategy. My take on the whole thing is summed up in my quote:

“I don’t think the people at DailyKos are going to treat John McCain mercifully, but I think the fact that people get their question heard makes them dial it back a bit,” said Soren Dayton, a blogger who worked briefly for the McCain campaign and now works at a public affairs company, New Media Strategies.

Yesterday, you see, a couple of liberal bloggers were invited to McCain’s regular blog conference calls in which he fields questions from bloggers for about an hour. One blogger, one of the Momocrats, a blog that lives at the intersection of two lively blogospheres, mommy blogs and the lefty nutroots, made the point most effectively:

“The fact that I could ask my question and have it smacked down is farther than a lot of people could get,” she said.

In the case of both Barack Obama and McCain, there is a kind of “medium is the message” thing going on. By inviting lefties, especially lefties who are read by the entire mainstream media like Talking Points Memo, it drills home the message that John McCain is for openness. At the same time, Obama is dodging questions and calling reporters sweetie. Just looking through comments on these blogs, and chatting with some media types, reporters and bloggers are hearing that message. Why won’t Obama answer questions from reporters? Why won’t Obama answer questions from bloggers? Why did Obama’s new media person resign because he couldn’t get access? Etc., etc., etc.

The media is still in love with Obama. But we have 6 months for them to not get to ask questions and write unfair stories. I suspect that somewhere around the convention, they are going to have to start writing serious stories about Obama, just like they did about John Kerry. Then it will be a whole new ballgame.

Romney ad “misleading”; McCain responds

Mitt Romney dropped a negative ad in New Hampshire attacking John McCain. However, it seems that Romney, again, has some truthiness problems. Given the factual errors below, it is clear why McCain goes straight to Romney’s credibility problem.

Factcheck.org, "More Mitt Malarky":

Romney’s latest ad attacks McCain in New Hampshire with false and misleading claims

WaPo’s Howie Kurtz:

Mitt Romney, who targeted Mike Huckabee in an earlier commercial, is now running the most negative campaign of any presidential candidate in either party. … Romney’s description of McCain’s failed immigration bill — which was backed by President Bush — is so selective as to be misleading.

New York Times:

Specifically, Mr. Romney assails Mr. McCain on both tax policies and immigration. On both topics, the commercial presents facts that could be construed either as selective or worse, misleading.

Mark Halperin from Time points out:

First negative ad against Romney by any candidate, first negative ad by McCain, first negative ad by any candidate besides Romney.

Negative campaigning. Lying. Debating what the definition of "saw" is. Who does that sound like?

Is the Romney campaign lying to reporters again?

From the Boston Phoenix: (H/T The Page)

Two women contacted the Mitt Romney campaign this week, offering their memories of seeing Romney’s father march with Martin Luther King Jr., in Grosse Point Michigan in 1963. Campaign officials were well aware that the women were mistaken. Yet, they directed those women to tell their stories to a Politico reporter. …

Then-governor George Romney did indeed march in Grosse Pointe, on Saturday, June 29, 1963, but Martin Luther King Jr. was not there; he was in New Brunswick, New Jersey, addressing the closing session of the annual New Jersey AFL-CIO labor institute at Rutgers University.

Those facts are indisputable, and quite frankly, the campaign must have known the women’s story would eventually be debunked — few people’s every daily movement has been as closely tracked and documented as King’s. As I write this, I am looking at an article from page E8 of the June 30, 1963 Chicago Tribune, which discusses both events (among other civil-rights actions of the previous day), clearly placing the two men hundreds of miles apart. I also have here the June 30, 1963 San Antonio News, which carries a photo and article about Romney at the Grosse Pointe march; and an AP story about King’s speech in New Jersey.

The Politico story is here. This echoes previous unprofessional and unethical behavior by the Romney campaign:

Deepening the mystery surrounding the anti-Mormon polling calls, the Romney campaign is confirming that it referred reporters to two recipients of the calls without disclosing that the two were also on the Romney campaign payroll, TPM Election Central has learned.

In response to questions from TPM Election Central, Romney spokesman Kevin Madden confirmed that the campaign had failed to disclose this info to reporters. Madden suggested that the campaign had identified them as "supporters," which is a far cry from being directly paid by the campaign, as the two call recipients were.

Of course, this is par for the course for a campaign whose staff and volunteer officials seem to resign regularly under criminal investigations.

Substance-free Drudge attack on Rudy; Same for McCain?

The day of the CNN/YouTube debate, Matt Drudge, handmaiden of  Mitt Romney’s campaign, raised the issue that became known as "Shag Fund." The claim was that Rudy Giuliani had improperly hid expenses for visiting his then girlfriend. Well, it turns out that it just wasn’t true. Powerline and Captain’s Quarters have the details. Total exoneration from the New York Times.

In other words, Drudge pushed a bogus story at a time that was quite opportune for the Romney campaign.

Yesterday, Drudge pushed a story on John McCain. Drudge first claimed that an NYT story was in the works. Then he claimed that it would publish tomorrow. McCain was forced to answer a question. What happened?

No story. Nothing happened in the Times. And, in fact, it was clear from the facts Drudge provided that no story would be there. No substance, as was made clear in the Washington Post story today.

That’s the story guys. Matt Drudge is a Romney shill.

DMR and Globe endorse McCain

The Des Moines Register and the Boston Globe endorsed John McCain today. The Register’s key quotes:

Yet, for all their accomplishments on smaller stages, none can offer the tested leadership, in matters foreign and domestic, of Sen. John McCain of Arizona. McCain is most ready to lead America in a complex and dangerous world and to rebuild trust at home and abroad by inspiring confidence in his leadership.

 

In an era of instant celebrity, we sometimes forget the real heroes in our midst. The defining chapter of McCain’s life came 40 years ago as a naval aviator, when he was shot down over Vietnam. The crash broke both arms and a leg. When first seeing him, a fellow prisoner recalls thinking he wouldn’t live the night. He was beaten and kept in solitary confinement, held 5 ears. He could have talked. He did not. Son of a prominent Navy admiral, he could have gained early release. He refused. …

 

McCain would enter the White House with deep knowledge of national-security and foreign-policy issues. He knows war, something we believe would make him reluctant to start one. He’s also a fierce defender of civil liberties. As a survivor of torture, he has stood resolutely against it. He pledges to start rebuilding America’s image abroad by closing the Guantanamo prison and beginning judicial proceedings for detainees.

 

McCain has his flaws, too, of course. He can be hot-tempered, a trait that’s not helpful in conducting diplomacy. At 71, his age is a concern. The editorial board disagrees with him on a host of issues, especially his opposition to abortion rights and gay marriage. McCain foresees a “long, hard and difficult” deployment of troops in Iraq. The Register’s board has called for withdrawal as soon as it’s safely possible.

 

But with McCain, Americans would know what they’re getting. He doesn’t parse words. And on tough calls, he usually lands on the side of goodness — of compassion for illegal immigrants, of concern for the environment for future generations.

 

The force of John McCain’s moral authority could go a long way toward restoring Americans’ trust in government and inspiring new generations to believe in the goodness and greatness of America.

Pretty good language. It should be pointed out that these are not huge endorsements in Republican primaries, unlike McCain’s endorsement in the Union Leader. That said, any candidate would be touting them.

Union Leader endorses McCain; Romney goes negative

Drudge is reporting that the NH Union Leader is endorsing John McCain tomorrow. My gut is that, as newspaper endorsements go, this is a relatively big deal. The UL is influential in NH, and it can also drive local media.

For a while people thought that Mitt Romney was going to get this endorsement. It was long the conventional wisdom that Judd Gregg would go with Romney, and Joe McQuaid, the UL editor, is very close to Gregg. In fact, NH sources tell me, McQuaid called Gregg to tell him about the endorsement, as a courtesy and recognition of their long friendship. Unfortunately, the Romney campaign had no such deference to the friendship. They leaked the story to Drudge and started moving around negative material on McCain.

Typical Romney scorched-earth tactics. Of course, if the recent Fox News poll is any indication, Romney may end up with something to worry about in NH.

Of course, it seemed that a McCain endorsement was likely. They had whacked Fred Thompson repeatedly. McQuaid is very pro-life, and so Rudy was out of the question. And McQuaid had attacked Romney on abortion:

CAN PRO-LIFE Americans count on Mitt Romney to protect the unborn? Maybe, but Romney has not been convincing on this point. …

That is not reassuring. It is a tacit admission that he told the people of Massachusetts what they wanted to hear, essentially saying he would govern according to state law and not his own personal beliefs, but then governing according to those personal beliefs. …

Romney has given two accounts of his changing views on abortion. One is that he was pro-choice until 2005, when he became pro-life after researching stem cell issues. The other is that he was personally pro-life but refused to impose his views on the people of Massachusetts.

Both cannot be true. Which is it? We are not sure we care. But we do care that Romney has two stories that don’t mesh and appears to have inadvertently admitted to taking a position on this issue because it was politically expedient to do so.

In Iowa, Romney’s line that he is tired of people being "holier than thou" because they’ve been pro-life longer than he has was a good one. But it’s not about who’s been pro-life longer. It’s about whether Romney really is pro-life. Despite his assurances, we, along with many conservatives, are not convinced he is.

What happens if the UL really goes after Romney? An extended attack on Romney’s credibility could do a lot of damage. And there’s plenty of material.

Did McCain win the battle of the “bitch”?

So, there was a three-ish day media frenzy on this. The video on YouTube has been watched almost 1m times. It was rebroadcast hundreds of times. Whoopi Goldberg defended John McCain on The View to a bunch of liberal women.

CNN rebroadcast the exchange repeatedly, as they tried to smear him. Including John McCain saying that he was beating Hillary in the polls.

Isn’t that a win?

Oh, and AOL viewers thought that John McCain handled it well by a 2-1 margin.

And, on a side note, for the guys wondering about where the eyeballs are on the internet, I thought this, from the YouTube page was a compelling statistic:

Nuff said? AOL had 40x the next source of eyeballs. Doesn’t that mean something?

Righty blogs: Activism versus media management

Jon Henke, currently with the Fred Thompson campaign and previously with Senator Mitch McConnell and former Senator George Allen, weighed in on the discussion about the role of righty-blogs. He said:

I think these compositional sociological explanations for the differences between Left and Right in the blogosphere and activist communities are over-complicated and unnecessary. The dominance of the Left online is not a permanent phenomenon. It is a reflection of the cyclical fact that the Left is angry, unified, surging and being effectively supported by people and organizations with long term strategic goals. They have a common cause, a unifying vision and a raison d’etre.

The Right does not.

I am pretty sure that Jon and I agree on all of this, but I want to clarify something. The sociological explanation is about activism. The structure is about managing the media. One is, in the end, a project of giving activists the tools to express their ideas, passions, etc. The other is, to some extent, a mechanical framing and outreach. Let’s look at some examples.

The Center for American Progress has a daily email. The audience for this email is Hill staffers, the press, and bloggers. It has a main article. And it has a little blog summary. The links are to a Media Matters blog (Glenn Greenwald), Think Progress, TPM Muckraker, (the 3 wings of the lefty online messaging apparatus) and a defeatist blog on Iraq.

I don’t know what the distribution is on this, but we do know that CAP is targeting the media. So they are driving media eyeballs to these blogs, raising their profile among the people who have the power to reproduce the message. And, even if they don’t actually reproduce this message, the persistent framing will have some impact.

Imagine if the right had a similar thing. A daily email with the top-line message from the right. It would contain links to milblogs that actually explain what is going on on the ground in Iraq. Explanations of the good things that the Bush administration is doing. Links to good information on the Democrats’ current legislative proposals, like a $3.5b tax increase. Links to corrupt things that Democrats are doing around the country. All in one place. And easy for the media — and bloggers — to consume. Over a year or so, this would totally reshape the blogosphere. And, frankly, this might facilitate the growth of new blogs that are more media savvy.

And we would have a separate set of emails for activists of different varieties. Probably a little more shrill. A little more closely targeted to interest groups, etc. Redstate is working on that second one. Some of the groups like AFP, FRC, RTL, etc., could also do this.

But no one is working on the first one. Heritage could, perhaps, but its focus is, legitimately, on the Hill. Rob Bluey is one person, not the 5 or 10 that it would take to implement this on a daily basis. And — this is where I say something controversial — perhaps Heritage represents the old coalition, headed by Ed Meese and a bunch of Reagan era people and grounded in the conservative movement of the 70s.

This wouldn’t take a lot of money. It wouldn’t take that many staff, but it would take smart people. And willing donors.