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Romney and the bloggers

The Boston Globe has a report on Mitt Romney’s early efforts to cultivate a relationship with the conservative blogosphere. The Globe acknowledges that Romney has already had some success in this regard. Hugh Hewitt, who previously has said that Romney has established a lead over John McCain and Rudy Giuliani when it comes to “new media,” comments on the Globe’s article here.
The Globe quotes Michael Turk, who ran the Bush online campaign in 2004, to the effect that unlike Democrats, whose 2004 primary was colored by bloggers, Republicans in 2008 will have their first-ever contested presidential primary where the blogosphere is a major political force. Turk told that Globe that GOP candidates will be judged on how well they’ve mobilized bloggers, and how much money they have raised online. He also said that the blogosphere is likely to have greatest influence in the primaries, because blogs appeal in large part to the political junkies and party activists who often decide primary races.
I’m a bit skeptical about claims that blogs will be “a major political force” in Republican primaries, and that candidates will be “judged” in any significant way by how well they’ve “mobilized bloggers.” For that matter, I’m skeptical about claims that blogs had much influence in Democratic primaries in 2004, given the terrible performance in said primaries of the blog-preferred candidate, Howard Dean.
More telling than Turk’s comments, I think, is this one by Hugh:

The major story of early 2008 will be the unexpectedly thin support for Senator McCain among the GOP base, a reality that is hinted at by the very thin support and enthusiasm he generates in the new media.

Blogs, in other words, reflect political reality more than they shape it. Indeed, Romney’s early success with conservative bloggers is a more a reflection of the strong positive impression he tends to make in person than of some special saavy with the “new media.” His success in the primaries will depend more on his ability similarly to impress the voters he meets, than the prospect that voters will take bloggers’ word for how impressive he is (or is not).
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