For the past three days, Republican staffers on Capitol Hill have had their hands full catering to a group of VIPs who met privately with senators, talked politics with Karl Rove and were given an exclusive briefing on the GOP’s key races in 2006.
Who were these influential people? Here’s a hint: They’re not lobbyists or big donors to Republicans, but they do wield great power with the touch of the keyboard and click of the mouse.
They’re the new kids on the block: bloggers. During Samuel Alito’s confirmation hearings they have commanded more attention than any of their mainstream media counterparts.
The GOP’s full-scale effort to court bloggers started Monday at the Republican National Committee, where they gathered to hear from party Chairman Ken Mehlman and White House Deputy Chief of Staff Karl Rove.
The following day, Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R.-Tenn.) paid a visit to Bloggers’ Row at the Alito hearings to tell the bloggers—young and old, but all conservative—how important he considered blogging.
Frist’s visit was followed by Senators John Cornyn (R.-Tex.) and Orrin Hatch (R.-Utah). None of the three was in a hurry to leave, staying until all questions were answered and the bloggers satisfied.
Later Tuesday, several bloggers were invited to a catered lunch at the National Republican Senatorial Committee. As we ate, the NRSC’s political team briefed us on the key races in 2006. Representatives from several Senate campaigns—the races of Maryland’s Michael Steele, Virginia’s George Allen and Montana’s Conrad Burns—dropped by to introduce themselves and praise the power of blogs.
Wednesday’s schedule was even more hectic. Starting in the morning, Republican operatives sent the Federalist Society’s Leonard Leo to spin on Bloggers’ Row. He was followed by Sen. Chuck Grassley (R.-Iowa), who was followed by Judge Alito’s former law clerks.
The afternoon brought three more senators—Orrin Hatch (R.-Utah), Jon Kyl (R.-Ariz.) and Sam Brownback (R.-Kan.). Hatch enjoyed Bloggers’ Row so much he made appearances on both days and didn’t want to leave when the time came. He spent 35 minutes with the bloggers Wednesday.
So why are Republican operatives, and U.S. senators for that matter, catering to these bloggers? Because one blog post (as is the case with Scott Johnson of Power Line) can change the course of history.
Drudge linked to my story later that day, but it was Johnson’s report that launched him—and bloggers in general—into the national spotlight.
The trend continues today. Last night, Drudge—with his millions of visitors—picked up my piece about Alito’s wife from AlitoBlog.com. The possibilities are endless for reaching a new audience—and Republicans are apparently ready to embrace this concept.
And while not all the perks of the credentialed press are available to bloggers—there was no up-close view of Alito (even so, I chose Bloggers’ Row)—they were offered passes to visit the committee room for up to an hour. But even better than a seat in the hearing room, bloggers got exclusive access to people and information our mainstream media brethren didn’t get.
P.S.: So who were all these bloggers? Here’s a rundown of the crew:
Tim Chapman, Townhall.com
Pat Cleary, National Association of Manufacturers
Bob Hahn, RedState
Mary Katherine Ham, HughHewitt.com
Justin Hart, Right Side Redux
Scott Johnson, Power Line
Michelle Malkin, MichelleMalkin.com
Matt Margolis, Blogs for Bush
Ed Morrissey, Captain’s Quarters
Mark Noonan, GOP Bloggers
Flip Pidot, Suitably Flip
Ian Shwartz, The Political Teen
Charmaine Yoest, Reasoned Audacity