The Editor of PolicyByBlog and Emily Metzgar, a political columnist, just published (November 03, 2005) in the Christian Science Monitor an essay that deals with the prospect of the blogosphere becoming a “space” for running for President: COULD BLOGS TRUMP STUMPING IN IOWA?

Like all newspaper pieces, we needed to be short and we were edited. To expand the context, for over a generation political scientists have noted that there was a campaign for president before the ostensible running season began with the Iowa Caucuses. The journalist Arthur Hadley called this period the “invisible primary.” Would-be presidents underwent a series of “tests.” (Think Labors of Hercules!) As articulated by political scientist Rhodes Cook, these trails included:

1. psychological test: that the candidate seems to be balanced and normal, someone one you could picture as being president as well as someone who has the vigor and “fire in the belly” to ride out and succeed in an election campaign.

2. staff test: is the candidate able to build an effective campaign organization, putting together people who will work well for him?

3. strategy test: how does the candidate put together a winning number of delegates from the states that will gain him the nomination; by what combination of victories?

4. fundraising test: can he gain enough support for his candidacy from big money-donating constituencies such as labor or Hollywood within Democratic party or religious groups and businesses within the Republican party, and a wide range of contributions from a potentially larger group of voters? The money game is particularly important not just in itself because, in politics money follow money. A candidate may not be able to announce victories in primaries a year before the Iowa caucus but they may be able to herald large cash donations to their campaigns. Other donors will now want to bet on a winner. So building up the war chest is one way to gain a higher profile for further contributions.

5. press test: How does the candidate fare in press conferences and in interviews with reporters? Do he seem like he could undergo the rigor of scrutiny by local and national media once the greater official campaign begins?

6. constituency test: Trying to create a coalition of constituencies that will propel the candidate not only to nomination as party candidate but also can realistically put together a majority vote for ultimate election.

We wanted to suggest that blogs are a new factor, a new test for the candidate–right now.

Originally posted November 3, 2005 at PolicyByBlog

One Comment

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    Original Reader Comments (17)

    It is unrealistic to suggest that political candidates should “work the blogosphere….one blog at a time.” The blogosphere is vast and diverse. Expecting a politician to address every possible blogger individually would be like expecting the politician to shake the hand of every possible voter. For all but local government politicians, this feat would be hard to achieve.
    Instead of viewing the blogosphere as yet another arena to “work”, politicians with visions and ideals greater than election victories could utilize the blogosphere as a place to truly inform voters on the complexities of current events.
    Politicians assumedly are exposed to a large amount of information that influences the decisions they make. Hyperlinking technologies available on blog spaces allows this information to be offered to the general public, primarily as enlightening info and secondarily as rhetorical support for decisions made.
    This sort of on-line open forum, in which constituents can become more informed, politicians can be personally accountable for (most of) their public affairs, and a potential dialogue could occur between politicians and their voters, could prove to augment the democratic processes.
    January 17, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterlittle34

    I believe that the blog is a new factor for political parties to consider. I don’t think they had an overwhelming effect on any national election thus far, but I think that as they become more popular and people become more familiar with them, they will be much more influential. I think blogs allow the opportunity for more voices to be heard. I also believe the blog could, in essence, help predict the best candidate before the Iowa caucus. The post mentioned several tests. Blogs will discuss factors involved in the qualifying tests and will allow people to express their opinion on how each individual who is considering running for President will perform. The individuals who survive the public criticism the best will be the most likely candidates to win the Iowa caucus. I also think, in time, blogs could decrease the number of undecided voters once the parties announce their Presidential candidates.
    January 17, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterNOLA7

    I agree with Little34 that blogs can be a powerful tool for politicians to use to validate their decisions with information. But I think the commenter misunderstood the idea of an “invisible primary.” In no way was PBB suggesting that each political candidate would have to conquer the blogosphere to be successful in campaigning. The suggestion was that blogs would become an item on the list of “tests” for candidates to either pass or fail.

    Ask a typical American voter about the fundraising campaigns of, say, Hillary Clinton and most of us would have very little, if any, information on that issue – mainly because fundraising is not reported in the msm and therefore is only on the agenda of very few people.

    The same goes with the “blog test.” It is unreasonable to expect any candidate to conquer the blogosphere and have full saturation of blogs, but it is reasonable to expect that candidates do their homework and find out who is influential in the blogosphere and what issues are being talked about right now. This concept is termed “invisible” because it isn’t presented in the msm, but it is still very critical for candidates to do well during the invisible primary to have a shot at the very visible primary.
    January 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commentersmarin3

    The argument that blogs will become another test in the “invisible presidential primary” is attractive and largely convincing. After all, the invisible primary is followed by elites, political junkies and party loyalists. And so are blogs.

    I know, I know. I actually wrote the words elites and blogs in the same sentence. I must be mistaken. After all, blogs are technological bastions of democracy, providing a political voice for anyone who wants one. But blogs do not somehow magically cause average, nominally-interested voters (and there are a whole lot of those) to take an active interest in politics. In general, political blogs are created and frequented by those who are seriously (sometimes grossly) interested in politics.

    The invisible primary is for this same group. It’s not for the fifty percent of the registered fifty percent who end up nodding to the Democrats or Republicans.

    This similarity in constituencies suggests a blog test may have great power as an indicator of political success for the “after the invisible primary,” the primary itself.

    But, this same point – that the groups interested in the invisible primary and in blogs are essentially the same – suggests that PBB/Editor’s argument may be more complex than he articulates.

    Arthur Hadley’s seven tests show that insiders track candidates on several fronts. Some are practical: Can the candidate make money and choose people who can do their job? Others are necessary to sell a candidate to the public: Can the candidate appear “normal,” is he likable, is he articulate and attractive before the press?

    The blog test is different. It is likely of little importance to the public (many of them still aren’t sure what blogs are). Likewise, it has little practical implication. It’s not as if creating a national blog is, or should be, priority No. 1 for the next presidential administration.

    The blog test essentially is a bunch of insiders tracking how a candidate fares among a world of insiders. In other words, insiders are watching their pals (or enemies) to see who likes whom best.

    This is not, of course, an earth-shattering concept. We all know of the very well-covered phenomenon of voting according to anticipations about whom others will vote for. The blogosphere could be a new medium for this phenomenon at a higher level of opinion-leadership.

    This suggests the possibility of a new kind of, or new shape to, insider political opinion. How centralized this power is remains to be seen, however, given the decentralized nature of the blogoshere itself. It may be worth studying. It’s at least worth considering.
    January 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterrepublic3

    By acknowledging bloggers as legitimate purveyors of political opinion, politicians risk giving power to yet another group of people who might affect their campaigns. I do not expect to see a blog test any time soon, because I do not think that politicians wish to grant that kind of political clout to bloggers. Of course, bloggers may gain this power despite the feelings of politicians, in which case, candidates get out your number two pencils.

    I do believe that reviewing blogs is a good idea for any candidate. Blogs are a free and easy way to assess public opinion of politically minded people. I say politically minded because I doubt that an apolitical person would create a political blog. Candidates could also benefit from reading the comments associated with those posts. If I were a politician, I would certainly be more inclined to believe what people write in their blogs over what they say in a survey. Blogs allow candidates to eavesdrop on their voters and find out how they and their opponents are truly perceived. If they wish, they could adjust their strategies accordingly. At the very least, they could weigh their findings against the traditional polls and research.
    January 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterdiversgirl

    Instead of being “invisible primaries,” Blogs may in fact turn out to be all too visible minefields through which potential presidential aspirants must tread carefully. Recall in the last election how swiftly “Rathergate” was exposed in the blogosphere. Now every candidate who ventures to think about the highest office will fret the smallest skeletons in his closet.

    However, it is not like this kind of investigative reporting did not happen in the past. Sure it did. But, it just so happens now the population of reporters with worldwide audiences (or potential audiences) has expanded to any hack with a computer. The world of elite investigative journalists has been democratized. This is just another wave in the devolution of journalistic power away from the aristocracy of the “Big Three” networks and the New York Times.

    Blogs will become the next Iowa, or at least a hazing period before official campaigning begins.
    January 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterjohn444

    I agree with the poster’s viewpoint that blogosphere has become a space for running for the president, but we had better not overestimate the importance of this special space. As referred to in the post, there are a series of tests that a would-be president has to undergo in the “invisible primary” period. However, is blogosphere a suitable and justified space for politicians to have these tests?

    With msm as main information sources, bloggers deliver a lot of comments on the politicians. However, it is rather difficult to make serious judgments of a politician based on these comments. Many bloggers will criticize or sing high for a politician simply according to a piece of news, and thus it is unfair to make any conclusion on the base of these opinions. Besides, there are tons of comments about a certain politician in blogs, therefore, it is almost impossible to summarize what’s the opinion of the majority.

    Thus, in my opinion, the comments in blogosphere may serve as a subsidiary information source for judging a would-be president, but they cannot be counted on too much.
    January 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commentereusuee

    Blogs can indeed become an integral factor in a presidential race, but, oddly enough, it will be the msm that ultimately determines their impact. The diversity of the blogosphere is such that a presidential candidate cannot possibly work it “one blog at a time” and achieve a high enough saturation to reach the necessary audience. But with careful message placement, a candidate can influence the media outlets that do reach the desired audience. Blogs are neither campaign books nor campaign speeches. They are not TV ads or political rallies or talk radio. They are a little of all of those, yet truly unique in their own right with their own special benefits and pitfalls. And how much the mass media pays attention to blogs will determine the impact of the blogosphere in presidential elections of the future.
    January 18, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterHog79

    I think the question is not whether politicians should pay attention to blogs, as some have suggested; rather, it is whether they have any choice. It is the answer to this latter question that makes the point for the blog test. As was noted in the article, “The Web in general and blogs in particular have perhaps upset a generation-old tradition of political campaigns. Previously, those of us living outside of Iowa or New Hampshire were largely left out of the process. The blogosphere helps dissipate this geopolitical claustrophobia.” As was suggested in the article, blogging could potentially make this invisible primary very visible. It is important to note that this is not done just by influential political figures. Although bloggers have most probably high political self-efficacy and may be more educated than the average voter, they do not necessarily constitute the traditional political elite who would be interested in the invisible primary. Neil Sinhababu is an example of a new body of political enthusiasts who might be tracking the invisible primary in the blogosphere. The interactive nature of blogging does not restrict the opinion making to the blog editor, but rather encompasses all those that participate in the blog and those that the blog links to. Having read “Could blogs trump stumping in Iowa,” I agree that the blog test is an inevitable aspect of political races today. That may be why many politicians are actively interacting with bloggers. Their strategic approach to blogging shows that they see the value of moving beyond “lurking” in voters’ blogs or “eavesdropping” the voters’ real opinions.
    January 18, 2006 | Unregistered Commentersocial scientist to be

    Americans are becoming more dependent on the Internet as a source of information, and blogs seem to be the newest trend. They are a way to discuss any topic with any one over the World Wide Web. Although blogs can be a powerful tool for politicians there are a few reasons they cannot be considered a new test for candidates…yet. Since they are relatively new to the public compared to other sources of information about candidates, many people are not familiar with blogs and/or how to use them. And as NOLA7 suggests, “It is unreasonable to expect any candidate to conquer the blogosphere…” but they can be used to see what issues are currently considered important (which can give blog-savvy candidates an edge so they can saturate the more popular information outlets). There are a few things about blogs that make them appealing to the voting public: they’re an immediate source of information, they allow a person to comment without being interrupted or ridiculed, they provide the opportunity to discuss with friend or foe on topics. These factors lead me to believe that the future of blogs will show them to be prominent, and while the importance of blogs during the “invisible primary” is worth reviewing over time, I don’t foresee them replacing the Iowa Caucuses any time soon.
    January 19, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterMonkeyLove

    It is not unreasonable to suggest that political candidates should “work the blogosphere…one blog at a time.” The author of the article no more meant that the candidate should literally visit and participate in every blog than a person who says “one handshake at a time” means that the candidate should shake every hand in America. There are of course hundreds of thousands of blogs, but only the ones that are reputable and suitable for political discourse would be of concern to a political candidate. Furthermore, just as a candidate deploys volunteers and paid staffers into other venues, it is reasonable to believe that a candidate would use a blogosphere to have campaign workers discuss talking points, distribute pertinent information, and plant ideas beneficial to the campaign. A systematic approach to the blogosphere would allow for personal contact with a huge audience of voters. That being said, the “blog test” as suggested by the post author is less likely to be Number 7 on Rhodes Cook’s list of tests and more likely to become a vital vehicle to the successful completion of some of the other six, such as the psychological test, the fundraising test, and the constituency test. Candidates who understand the potential impact of the Internet, and more specifically blogs, brandish a weapon that, when used effectively, can win elections. John F. Kennedy understood this when he mastered the art of television candidacy. Bill Clinton knew it when he harnessed Web sites and the Internet during his campaign. To dismiss blogs as being a playground for the 50-percenters would be folly for any candidate.
    January 19, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterweezy138

    The blogosphere is a widely disseminated medium that has the potential to influence a great number of voters. If blogs become more and more popular, as it appears they are, there is a possibility that they could have an effect in the future on a national level, and should a candidate make use of blogging they may create an advantage over other candidates who abstain, however there is the danger of having a candidate enter the blogosphere on a personal level, but as far as monitoring the blogosphere I feel that is a good idea because of the free forum of ideas and the pseudo-anonymity allows for less restricted discussion. This forum provides a wide range of opinions that could be very useful in determining the salience of certain issues over others and would be a useful tool for monitoring issues and public perception.
    January 19, 2006 | Unregistered Commentervanguard15

    We live in an Internet age, and blogs are becoming a very important factor in shaping public opinion. In fact, they allow for a free flow of ideas. Truly, regardless of how argumentative bloggers may get, they “can’t be fired or influenced by political pressure, publishers, or advertisers.”

    I agree that “like visiting coffee shops and town halls in Nashua,” political candidates should also interact with bloggers. The two-step flow theory of mass communication, first introduced in The People’s Choice in 1944, asserts that information from the media moves in two distinct stages. First, individuals (opinion leaders) who pay close attention to the mass media and its messages receive the information. Then these opinion leaders pass on their own interpretations of the messages in addition to the actual media content. Thus, opinion leaders, and in our case, bloggers, are very influential in getting people to change their attitudes and behaviors. Consequently, in order to survive criticism of general public, political candidates must know the main political bloggers by name and be familiar with their views. In other words, in order to win the elections, presidential aspirants should thoroughly analyze how they are perceived by these virtual opinion leaders, and may have to adjust their policy accordingly.
    January 19, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterfocus1

    Blogs are here and they are here to stay. This new tool for political communication will influence future political campaigns, like it or not. The question will be, what level of influence? Only time will tell that story.

    Once upon a time, a letter-to-the-editor in the local newspaper was the only way to voice opposition or support for policy makers. Just like many other new inventions and technology improvements, the American public as well as their political leaders will eventually use blogs and it will have an impact on the politics of the future.

    I agree with diversgirl, politicians and especially their staffs will benefit by paying attention to what is presented on the blogs. This is a new instrument of measure, which politicians can now use to access and determine public opinion. But just like talk radio, the politician, and even ourselves in the public, must take what we gain from blogs with a grain of salt. Blogs will become great resources on determining public opinion, but we must keep reality in check and not accept every issue or point of view that is presented by the bloggers as mainstream.

    Blogs do seem like they will take the path to becoming the new Iowa. Like it or not, I do believe this will become the testing waters for politicians and their staffs prior to jumping full throttle into a campaign. As MonkeyLove mentioned, blogs are new and it will take the average American a while before he or she is accustom to the purpose and how to use this new means of mass communication. So yes, blogs are here to stay and will impact political decision-making as well as eventually with time and experience, become the “invisible primary”.
    January 20, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterBigAL1993

    The blogosphere realm may be a new battle ground for the presidential candidate as he or she attempts to rally the caucus and gain the party nomination. But whether the blogosphere would prove to be a test or challenge, or even a threat to the candidates’ ability to succeed at the six criteria above, is the question.

    The blogosphere debating the worthiness of a presidential candidate would open up a forum for debate. The candidate can do likewise and meet those bloggers on their terms, giving them the kind of analysis they need on where the candidate stands on the issues. It is not as challenging a test as the other categories; it is more of an advantage, where the candidate can have his or her say uninterrupted, as opposed to in the press or in debates with his or her opponents.

    Likewise, the candidate can get unfiltered insights into the voters. The blogosphere also gives the candidate a forum for one on one interaction, political protocol aside, to get down to the issue. The blogosphere takes the stumping away and brings in dialogue. These seem to be more advantages for a candidate rather than a test, if blogs were to become the new Iowa.

    Another consideration is the extent to which bloggers represent the typical Iowan the candidate is trying to reach. A person who constitutes a blogger may not necessarily be representative of the voter. A blogosphere for this purpose seems more to work in the candidates favor, rather than as a test.
    January 23, 2006 | Unregistered Commentertrinireporter

    It is true that the politician is using the blog to reach his/her constituents. I don’t think its possible for politicians to address every reader with their blog, but neither do their commercials and any public debates. Because it is a new area for them to utilize, they may gain popularity just because of their willingness to accept this “innovation,” I guess you could call it that. If his supporters and potential supporters are bloggers, they will be happy to have what they may consider a more indepth look at their politician. If they are not bloggers, they won’t read it, simple as that.
    January 23, 2006 | Unregistered Commenterharrison72

    Blogs should be considered a new test for political candidates. It is evident that blogs are a new media venue for acquiring and submitting various types of information. BigAL1993 brings up a good point how eventually people will have to become familiar with blogs, whether they like it or not. As computers were first introduced to society, numerous people could not fathom the idea of giving up their customary typewriters. Now it is considered unusual for individuals to actually own the antique devices.
    With every new day, advances in technology are being produced. If candidates expect to run competitive campaigns, they must be knowledgeable with communication styles of their voters. By contributing and viewing blogs, they will open more doors for stronger political campaigns.
    January 24, 2006 | Unregistered CommenterQTPi1021

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