‘Instapundit’ Glenn Reynolds Discusses New Media’s Impact on Political Campaigns

June 28th, 2007 2:53 PM

One of the most well-known conservatives in the blogosphere is Glenn Reynolds, whose “Instapundit” website continually receives some of the highest traffic totals of all political venues on the Internet.

Due to his expertise on such issues, the folks at the largely liberal Mother Jones published an interview with Reynolds last week wherein the topic of discussion was how the new media are impacting political campaigns.

The first technological change addressed by Reynolds was that of fundraising (emphasis added throughout):

The difference is that now, instead of going to a few hundred or a few thousand people to raise money, you can go to a few million. Candidates who can raise money in small doses from a lot of people can compete with people who can raise money in bigger doses from a small number of rich people, and that's a big change. We saw Howard Dean with the initial indication of that, but Obama is taking it to the next level.

At this point, Reynolds views the Democrats as being well ahead of the Republicans in utilyzing the Internet during campaigns:

I think the Democrats have the advantage. The Republicans had a better machine using the last generation of new media such as direct mail and email, but I think Republicans have been behind the curve on using the Internet for fundraising and campaigning. I think Dean was proof of concept. He made clear to everyone that was paying attention that there was a whole new game here. There's plenty of time for Republicans to step up their game, but I'm skeptical they will do it. They've gotten so used to winning that they are no longer open to new ideas, and don't have that hunger that you need to change your program. That's a big mistake on their part. Until the Republicans have someone like Joe Trippi, someone who really understands the Internet, I don't think they will change, unless they are forced to.

On the other hand, Reynolds isn’t thrilled with how videos are being used by politicians:

I mean, it's nice to put your commercials on YouTube, but it's still a commercial. Anything the candidates do on the web is always going to be drained of life and excitement compared to what people outside the campaign do because campaigns play it safe. They can't help it.

Without pointing fingers at one side or the other, Reynolds seemed to be mocking politicians that are taking too much of a cue from bloggers concerning policy positions:

But politicians have to be careful—it's okay to be "responsive," but the Internet winds shift suddenly, and if you shift with them too much you look weak or opportunistic. Reading blogs gives you an idea what a sector of the electorate thinks, but politicians would be wise to stick to their own beliefs and use the Internet to reach people who share them, or who might be persuaded to share them.

Finally, Reynolds cautioned bloggers about getting too close to campaigns:

When campaigns hire a blogger, they get a lot of expertise. The blogger, once they work for a candidate, they become part of the candidate's operation. But the glow wears off pretty fast. Everybody knows they're not independent anymore. Once I get an email from a blogger I know is working for a campaign, I treat it as campaign spam, because that's what it is.

Sound advice that people in the mainstream media ought to heed as well, Glenn.