You know it’s 2007 when a candidate, in this case Mike Huckabee, holds a bifurcated conference call, first with reporters, then with bloggers. I listened in on both calls to see what the differences were. The reporters’ questions were much more concise and polished. But the bloggers’ questions were more substantive by a long shot. Here’s a sampling of the reporters’ questions, paraphrased:
How much flak are you getting for endorsements by Chuck Norris and Ric Flair?
Is the drop in violence in Iraq making it a less important campaign issue?
What’s it like facing the Clinton political machine?
Why aren’t you spending more time in Iowa right now?
What do you think of Romney and Giuliani going after each other?
What’s going to be your strategy coming out of Iowa?
Compare that with questions raised by the (largely pro-Huckabee) bloggers:
Can you speak about the Arkansas home-schooling bill that came up when you were governor?
How is the Fair Tax likely to affect tourism in Michigan?
What are your thoughts on a parental rights amendment?
How do you plan to make education a bigger issue on the trail?
Can you respond to claims that your economic policies are in line with populist traditions of the Democratic party?
What would you say to immigrants turned off by all the anti-immigration talk among Republicans?
Everyone knows the media is shallow, horse-race obsessed, blah blah blah ... but in many cases, bloggers really are the ones driving discussion of the issues.
That said, the reporters’ call did yield this yarn—classic Huckabee—about why Mitt Romney isn’t polling better despite spending so much money in Iowa (largely paraphrased):
There’s an old story about a guy who opened a dog food company. He spent a lot of money. He got best food nutritionist, the best marketing people, the best sales force. He was going to launch the biggest, best food company around, and it was going to take the market away.
But then when it launched, sales were flat. He called all his people together and asked them: Who has the best formula? "We do, sir." Who has the most ingenious marketing plan? "We do, sir." Who has the best distribution? "We do, sir." Who has the best labeling? "We do, sir." Then how come we’re not doing better in the market? "Because the dogs won’t eat the darned stuff, sir."