« Ohio: Reform Ohio Now | Main | Bush Backs Down »

Thursday, June 02, 2005

Dems-2008: John Edwards Netroots Outreach

Posted by Bob Brigham

Over at the The American Prospect, Garance Franke-Ruta lands an important scoop:

John Edwards isn't just taking to blogging like a fish to water over at TPMCafe, he's also doing some pretty serious outreach to those who occupy the new media space more generally. Last night the former vice-presidential candidate had a bunch of the political bloggers over for dinner at his D.C. house, I'm told, to meet with him, his internet team, and his wife. Attendees included: Taegan Goddard, Matt Stoller, Stirling Newberry, Ezra Klein, and Oliver Willis, among others.

Focusing on the blogosphere is a pretty smart way for Edwards to keep his name in print and before the eyes of the mainstream media over the next few years. And with Howard Dean declining an '08 run, there's room for a new player in the blogosphere/new media space that used to be exclusively his. Gaining the loyalty of bloggers -- which is not that hard to do if you just talk to them -- could have implications for Edwards' future fundraising and media strategies, should he decide to run for office again, either nationally or in North Carolina. And it will certainly give him a higher media profile on an ongoing basis if his goal is to be a Democratic Party and issue leader rather than a candidate.

I just finished watching John Edward's first videocast.

Swing State Project focuses a good deal of post-inches looking at the evolving nature of online politics. Tagaris and I both do this professionally and DavidNYC is an old-school leader online, so our passion for cutting-edge tactics ties in perfectly with our focus on the evolving nature of political campaigns.

First on the videocast, I like Edward's podcast efforts more because I think they offer more content, but with a candidate like him, I fully understand why his team is blazing some new ground to get his face attached to his message.

While Edwards fielded a question about online communication and immediately started thinking about the ATM, he recovered nicely by bringing it back to message distribution and interaction. I think he gets it. He realizes that the middleman isn't needed, that instead of pestering the netroots to raise money to pay to distribute message, post-modern campaigns have more latitude to simply distribute message -- focusing on the content rather than paying for the cost of the container.

Now back to the dinner. That is a helluva a group of people to share a table with. Goddard provides an answer before many know the question, Stoller is a fucking genius, Sterling a sage, Klein is a glimpse of what is to come, and Willis is one of the most detail-oriented people to ever keep people focused on the big picture -- some of the best of the best. But as Garance pointed out, it would have been nice for some of the great female voices to be included.

At the end of the day, I don't find it very interesting who Edwards had or didn't have at dinner. I don't find it interesting that he was reaching out to bloggers -- both of the grassroots presidential candidates have figured this out. What I find interesting is that this might get enough play with the inside-the-beltway crowd that politicians who are running for something other than president will follow Edwards leadership and cut out the middleman when it comes to communication.

No matter where you are running, if there are bloggers who write about your district, you should have them over for dinner. While this makes complete sense for the presidential candidates (even their consultants figured this one out), it has been slow to catch on locally.

Looking at the 2008 Democratic Primary, two candidates have really focused on reaching out to the netroots. Democrats running for statewide or federal offices would be wise to rip off the best ideas these two candidates are using. Don't worry, both gentleman want Democrats to succeed and I think would be proud to have you steal their ideas.

The one thing both candidates have realized is that more people will visit other websites than will visit their campaign websites. Tagaris calls this "thinking outside the website" and is a test that quickly shows who gets post-modern communication and who is waiting for fossilization.

The problem is, there aren't enough of us who specialize in this. The smart candidates will have grabbed all of the blog-consulting talent with experience -- by the end of the summer.

So the problem that will face candidates is how to make it without reinventing the wheel -- without being able to hire the people who built the wheel the first time around.

My advice to every Democrat I won't work for is to follow the lead of the grassroots presidential candidates and the bad-ass senate candidate. Hire young people with sound political instincts and reverse engineer the best practices at the national level.

Congressional candidates are building message structures like they are running state-wide, senate candidates are running like they're running for president, and already people are campaigning for 2008. Some know what is going on, some are complete wankers, follow the best of the pack and local campaigns will shine.

But go locally. Plan realizing that Matt Stoller isn't going to have dinner with you. Localization is the key in 2006. Yes, Edwards can nationalize and Jon Tester will nationalize, but for 99% of the candidates the key is localization.

Posted at 11:51 PM in 2008 President - Democrats, Netroots | Technorati


You are wise beyond your years, Brigham.

What I don't get, is why so many politicians don't understand a pretty basic point: If they want the support of a group of activists, just actually being nice to them, interacting with them, making sure they know they are being valued, just is not that hard.

An example: Seth Williams came to Wednesday's DFA meetup. He didn't make a speech, didn't do anything, except show up like anyone else, grabbed a beer, and sat down with people who really gave him strong support. And you could feel in the room how much that simple, small act meant to the people in the room. Obviously, activists in Philly have a lot of affection for the campaign he ran, but in that one act, he clearly cemented his status with so many people, for an election that will not take place for four years.

Forget about feeling like an ATM, people don't want to feel like whores- used when it is conveinent.

Posted by: DanielUA [TypeKey Profile Page] at June 3, 2005 02:35 PM | Permalink | Edit Comment | Delete Comment