The Max Headroom Candidates

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
Sept. 29 2010 4:41 PM

The Max Headroom Candidates

Matt Bai shows what happens when a campaign skimps on access to a candidate: It gets a thumbsucker on what that candidate is doing wrong . Bai's difficulty accessing a campaign schedule for Christine O'Donnell doesn't match up with my experience -- I approached the campaign before the primary -- but he makes an interesting argument. Well, with one exception. In discussing how Republican candidates are able to surge by talking to conservative media more than they talk to voters, he makes a comparison that doesn't hold up.

Democrats saw the first effects of this in 2006, when Ned Lamont ,a Connecticut cable executive with a personal fortune, found himselfadopted by bloggers and Hollywood celebrities as a vehicle againstSenator Joseph I. Lieberman and the Iraq war.

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Bai mentions the personal fortune, but he could also mention the serious grassroots campaign Lamont built up in the state leading up to the primary. Lamont squeaked out a win over Lieberman; the ability of Sarah Palin to alter the momentum of a primary with a mere Facebook post, and the ability of Christine O'Donnell to build a national following by breaking conservative opinion leaders into pro-her and anti-her factions -- that's new. That's not something Democrats have done, or have had the network to do. There's MSNBC* to answer Fox, sure. There used to be Daily Kos, unanswered on the right by anything formidable the way talk radio was unanswered on the left. Now there's a massive network of conservative blogs, more talk radio than ever, and -- I still think this is underrated -- online video channels that allow conservatives to discover and invest in candidates they never otherwise would have heard of.

Ben Smith has more on what Fox can do for Republicans. They really are able to gain advantages in small races with access to national media, and that's new.

*I'm a political contributor to MSNBC.

David Weigel is a Slate political reporter. 

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