Both men maintain blogs highlighting the progress of their favorite 2008 presidential candidates. While neither candidate is currently front runner for their respective party’s nomination, each blogger saw the value a blog could have in spreading their message across the web. A new form of grassroots promotion, the blog has become the political underdog’s new best friend.
“It’s the fastest way to get your message out, period,” said Samuel, a 23-year-old student at the New York University School of Law who writes for The Bill Richardson Blog. Richardson, the governor of New Mexico, has been campaigning for Democratic nomination behind hopefuls Hilary Clinton and Barack Obama. “When networks of blogs interact with each other, the effect can be a powerful one that’s completely independent from the candidate.”
Samuel started the blog in the summer of 2005, and at that time the Bill Richardson Blog was the first of its kind (though Washington for Richardson launched soon after). Since his blog’s debut, Samuel says, the people from Richardson’s official campaign – already prepared to handle the candidate’s web presence – have played a positive role.
“The response has been good,” he says. “They have a dedicated netroots outreach person, who is great about making sure all Richardson blogs are kept in the loop about things that are going on. There’s great community networking and organizing tools on the official site, and all of that.”
While Samuel is focusing his efforts on the Democrats, at the other side of the blog spectrum is Nystrom, a freelance web developer who runs the Ron Paul blog at DailyPaul.com. Nystrom’s interest in Republican candidate Paul goes back to 2002, when he witnessed the self proclaimed “Champion of the Constitution” criticizing Alan Greenspan’s monetary policies.
“I made a note of this character’s name, and that evening when I got home from work I looked up his testimony on C-SPAN,” recalls Nystrom. “This was back in the days before YouTube, and C-SPAN had this clunky online video system that I had to painstakingly scan through to find the footage. When I found the part with Dr. Paul, I transcribed it and put it up on the web.”
DailyPaul.com was launched this past January, after Nystrom heard an interview where Paul predicted the impact the Internet would have on the 2008 election.
“He said it would be a contest between the people who get their news in soundbites from the [mainstream media], and those who get their news more quietly and in-depth from the Internet,” Nystrom says. “I realized that was a true and correct assessment, and I wanted to be a part of it.”
The benefits of DailyPaul.com and its blog, he says, are widespread. Rather than just providing links to articles, Nystrom wants his site to give visitors a “shared experience.” They can comment and read comments from others, see how many times a story has been read and more. And since it isn’t Paul’s main website, it provides a variety of opinions, not just the “official” ones.
Traffic numbers between the two blogs may differ, if only due to their content. Samuel calls his blog “low post volume” – meaning he provides opinions rather than news updates – and says that as a result, traffic is lower than it would be at a news-centered site (though he remained tight lipped on exact numbers). Nystrom’s blog, which provides continuous brief news updates, has grown substantially: when it launched, Nystrom himself was the only visitor. Soon after, Matt Pyeatt – Paul’s eldest grandson – began blogging on the site, bringing the daily visitor toll up to 400. Today it has increased to “about 7,000 unique visitors a day.”
While at this (albeit early) point in the election game it seems that neither candidate will be the next president (an August 2nd Newsweek poll showed Richardson with 1 percent of Democratic preference for the party’s nomination and Paul with 2 percent from the Republicans), the fact that blogs exist in their favor show the substantial role the Internet is playing in a presidential election still more than a year away. For politicians in a wired America, a viable Internet presence could literally make or break a candidate’s campaign.
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