Politicians Court Bloggers in Vegas

About 1,000 bloggers have congregated in Las Vegas this weekend to gear up for the 2008 presidential race -- and some of the potential candidates were there, too.

The convention was organized by Markos Moulitsas, the founder of the liberal blog DailyKos.com and was attended by former Virginia Gov. Mark Warner, New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack and former NATO commander Gen. Wesley Clark, all potential Democratic presidential contenders.

Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y. was conspicuously absent from the convention. She is notoriously disliked in the blogosphere -- especially in the liberal blogosphere.

A Real Movement

Blogger Bryan Preston of the conservative blog HotAir.com said the blogging movement is for real, and politicians should take note.

"It probably will play a big role by hurting Democrats that try to move to the center," Preston said. "If you read the right-wing conservative blogs, well, they're all about ideas, whereas liberals do nothing but snipe and gripe at George W. Bush. They're all about power, winning the next election. Nothing else."

DailyKos -- the most popular political Web site on the Internet -- became a big supporter of Howard Dean in the last presidential cycle because he was willing to speak out against the Iraq war. Iit was largely through Dean's support on the Internet that he became, for a while anyway, the Democratic front-runner in the 2004 primary. By autumn 2003, he had raised $40 million with help from online advocates.

"They helped Howard Dean become the front runner for a little while, but so what?" said Ana-Marie Cox, the original blogger for Wonkette.com who now blogs for Time magazine. "Markos Moulitsas said that whoever they pick will be the next president of the United States. We'll see."

The New Iowa or New Hampshire?

Cox believes the bloggers' convention "is almost becoming the new Iowa caucuses" because politicians do not want to be the only one that misses it. However, the bloggers who go are almost all liberal.

Preston did not attend, but sent a spy to record the events. He said that if Democrats pay too close attention to the bloggers they will get dragged too far to the left and loose touch with voters.

"They go right over the top, and it's gotten so bad that the Center for American Progress is making a concerted effort to get them to tone it down," Preston said, referring to a think tank run by President Clinton's former chief of staff, John Podesta. "I do have to tip my hat to Kos for mustering so many troops like that, but in the end they'll hurt the Dems more than anything else."

But still, possible candidates like Warner pulled out all the stops and spent $75,000 on a party for the bloggers.

"The party had a chocolate fountain and two ice sculptures, one made to look like a computer with DailyKos on the screen," Cox said. "They also served drinks like "kosmopolitans" and "kos-martinis. … As they say on MTV, it was off the chain."

Of course, the Democrats will eventually have to face down a Republican in 2008, and Preston said the Republican pickings are slim.

"Well, truth is we don't have anyone," he said. "There's John McCain, of course, but he's done a lot of things, like pass the campaign finance bill, that conservatives don't like and that I certainly don't like. Then you got Rudy Giuliani: He'll have a harder time in the primary than he will in the general.

"But I think the two biggest issues in 2008 will be national security and immigration," Preston added. "There's no one in America who has a better record on national security, 'cause of the way Rudy Giuliani acted on 9/11. If he could get a real conservative running mate, I'd be for him -- and I'm a social conservative who disagrees with his stance on gays and abortion."

Former first lady Hillary Clinton remains one of the big question marks for the Democrats. Many say that she cannot win, and Cox said that her preliminary campaign is starting to unravel.

"The wheels on her ride to the White House are starting to come off," Cox said. "Even people, if you listen to them, they whisper. Even the ones who support her say that she can't win. I think she's a good senator. … If the Democrats got control of Congress she would be a good speaker of the House or majority leader. The Kossacks [DailyKos-allied bloggers] hate her because of her support for the war and because she doesn't seem to stand for anything."

This story is based upon interviews of Cox and Preston by Bill Weir on "Good Morning American Weekend Edition."