Blog­gers emerge as force on the right

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - By Eric Pfeif­fer

Con­ser­va­tive blog­gers still may not carry the po­lit­i­cal clout of their lib­eral coun­ter­parts, but a group of Wash­ing­ton-based on­line jour­nal­ists and ac­tivists has in­creased its in­flu­ence in the past year.

One prom­i­nent ex­am­ple is the “Con­ser­va­tive Blog­gers Brief­ing,” a weekly dis­cus­sion hosted by the Her­itage Foun­da­tion’s Robert Bluey.

“Th­ese meet­ings started out as strat­egy ses­sions for con­ser­va­tives to talk about pol­icy,” said Mr. Bluey, who co-founded the brief­ings about a year ago while writ­ing for the con­ser­va­tive pub­li­ca­tion Hu­man Events. “They’ve quickly evolved into a des­ti­na­tion for mem­bers of Congress, au­thors and oth­ers in the move­ment to share their ideas with an ac­tive au­di­ence of blog­gers.”

Guests have in­cluded House Mi­nor­ity Leader John A. Boehner, Ohio Repub­li­can, who dis­cussed ear­mark re­form; Na­tional Repub­li­can Cam­paign Com­mit­tee Chair­man Tom Cole of Oklahoma, who in­vited the group to NRCC head­quar­ters to dis­cuss 2008 elec­tion strat­egy; and Wash­ing­ton re­porter Robert No­vak, who pro­moted his best-sell­ing au­to­bi­og­ra­phy, “The Prince of Dark­ness.”

“It will only grow from here,” said David All, a Repub­li­can In­ter­net con­sul­tant who is a reg­u­lar at the blog­ger brief­ings. “There’s noth­ing like a face-to-face con­tact, and the blog­gers here have con­tin­ued to im­press.”

Repub­li­can vis­i­tors dur­ing the cam­paign sea­son last year in­cluded Se­nate Ma­jor­ity Leader Bill Frist of Ten­nessee, bud­get stal­wart Rep. Mike Pence of In­di­ana, Sen. Rick San­to­rum of Penn­syl­va­nia and for­mer House Speaker Newt Gin­grich, the Ge­or­gian who is con­sid­er­ing a 2008 pres­i­den­tial run.

At­ten­dance at the gath­er­ings started slow, but late ar­rivals to­day of­ten find them­selves with­out a seat.

The weekly crowd of about 25 blog­gers needs lit­tle ex­tra in­cen­tive, but it never hurts.

Dur­ing a re­cent brief­ing, Rep. Tom Price, Ge­or­gia Repub­li­can, served sand­wiches from Chick-filA, a restau­rant chain founded in his home dis­trict.

Asked how the con­cept of the meet­ings evolved, Mr. Bluey said, “I found it both sur­pris­ing and alarm­ing that many peo­ple in the con­ser­va­tive bl­o­go­sphere knew each other only by com­mu­ni­cat­ing via e-mail. We thought there was a tremen­dous op­por­tu­nity to bring peo­ple to­gether in one room each week to share in­for­ma­tion face to face.”

Mr. All and Mr. Bluey are cel­e­brat­ing an­other suc­cess for con­ser­va­tive blog­gers: get­ting the field of 2008 Repub­li­can pres­i­den­tial can­di­dates to re­verse its stance and em­brace a de­bate spon­sored by YouTube.

Yet con­ser­va­tive blog­gers ac­knowl­edge they have a long way to go to gen­er­ate the abil­ity to raise money and in­flu­ence that pro­gres­sive blog­gers have with the Demo­cratic Party.

Mr. All re­cently started a con­sult­ing busi­ness to help Repub­li­can can­di­dates and causes get hip to the age of Web 2.0, a term used to de­scribe so­cial net­work­ing sites such as Face­book and MyS­pace.

“It’s front and cen­ter now,” he said.

Mr. All is a reg­u­lar at the brief­ings, where he en­joys the “face-to­face con­tact” with fel­low con­ser­va­tives in the bl­o­go­sphere, but he still keeps his fo­cus on his lap­top.

Nancy Pas­tor / The Wash­ing­ton Times

The Her­itage Foun­da­tion’s Robert Bluey (left) and Repub­li­can In­ter­net con­sul­tant David All meet each week with fel­low con­ser­va­tive blog­gers to share in­for­ma­tion and ideas.

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