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2006: The rise of local political blogs

It seems that everyone is talking about blogs these days, but much of the coverage is all about the big national blogs that get millions of hits. But for most political campaigns, it's the local blogs that can make a big difference - generating buzz, finding donors and volunteers, and driving media coverage.

Over at Roll Call, they've got a great piece about the coming role of state and local blogs in the political world.

But if 2004 belonged to the national political blogs, 2006 might well be the cycle of the local political blog. These blogs specialize in state or local political coverage, and while these smaller, non-national political blogs may not have the resources — financial or otherwise — of the well-known titans of the blogosphere, many are starting to gain a following, not to mention the respect of state and local media outlets and politicians.

Last weekend, the Reno Gazette-Journal took notice of the rise of Nevada political blogs, including the Las Vegas Gleaner - a blog that "has quickly become a must-read in political circles."

Though readership is tiny for local political blogs, the Nevada Democrats' spokeswoman Kirsten Searer makes the critical point:

"The beauty of bloggers is they have an audience of the right people. If they break news, then insiders in politics and mainstream media are likely to pick it up."

It is nice to see that the Republicans at the NRCC completely miss the point about blogs. Roll Call quotes spokesman Carl Forti:

"The people who go to these blogs, it’s the very partisan Republicans and very partisan Democrats, and those aren’t the people we are worried about."

As regular readers of P&T know, the whole purpose of a campaign website is to communicate with, motivate, and organize the grassroots supporters and fans of a candidate.

If there's a blog out there - either of the news, commentary, or activist variety - that's talking to your people... well, that's a blog worth tracking and wooing. Nevermind their roles in pushing stories to the forefront of the big media.

The congressional Democrats seem to get it better. Greg Speed, former spokesman for the DCCC:

Speed added that in battleground areas, keeping an eye on what the blogging community is saying can be an important part of running a campaign.

Speed pointed to South Dakota and Sen. John Thune's (R) 2004 battle against then-Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle (D) as an election where bloggers showed just how much of a force they can be. In that election, South Dakota Republicans orchestrated a highly effective blog-based campaign against Daschle and one of the state’s largest newspapers, the Sioux Falls Argus Leader. During the campaign, bloggers hammered away at the paper’s coverage of Daschle and raised questions about certain writers’ objectivity.

"You had right-wing bloggers start a blog essentially claiming the Argus Leader was treating Daschle with kid gloves," Speed said. "And what you had was other mainstream media in the state seeing these things and thinking they were real stories."

So, start paying attention to local blogs. It's going to matter in 2006.

Key Resource:
At LeftyBlogs.com, you can track what left-leaning local blogs are saying in your state. Want to know the latest on the Corzine transition? Check out New Jersey. Wondering how superstar Governor Brian Schweitzer is doing? See Montana. Want the latest on-the-ground commentary from Katrina Ground Zero? Go to Louisiana You get the idea. Visit LeftyBlogs.com.

Previously on P&T:
Is blogging too risky for politicians?
Blogging 101 for Politicians
The "Skutnick": How I learned to stop worrying and love the blog