The implosion of Howard Dean led many to conclude that the hype over decentralized, Internet-driven campaigning was just one more dot-com delusion. But some candidates are discovering that there's gold in them thar weblogs.
By the start of April, readers of the liberal blogger Atrios had contributed more than $27,000 to the Democratic National Committee and over $126,000 to John Kerry's presidential campaign, including $20,771 raised on a single "John Kerry Thursday." At around the same time, readers of The Daily Kos, a liberal blog that tracks the details of political horse races, had dropped almost $60,000 into the DNC's collection plate and more than $48,000 in Kerry's.
The real political power of blogs, however, may be in attracting national attention -- and dollars -- to congressional or even local races. Kentucky Democrat Ben Chandler's campaign credits blog advertising, which brought in some $80,000 on a $2,000 investment, with helping him win a hard-fought special election for a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.
Weblogs hold out to candidates the promise of reaching intensely political readers who may be willing to contribute even to campaigns for seats outside their districts or states. Many of the ads now festooning liberal blogs, mostly placed via the fast-growing Blogads.com, seek to convince readers that their candidates' races have national significance. "Want to make Republicans in Washington see red?" asks an online ad for Georgia congressional candidate John Barrow. Another, for Ohio congressional candidate Jane Mitakides, implores Web surfers to "Help Jane help John Kerry!" But blogs can be a double-edged sword: After a post on Daily Kos expressed indifference to the deaths of American contractors in Iraq, many candidates hurriedly pulled their ads from the site.
Despite such risks, Republicans are sure to jump on the blog bandwagon soon.