Primary Misstep: How Laffey’s Supporters Made the Worst Out of Whatever Influence Anchor Rising Enabled
I’ll confess: I’m as curious as anybody about commentary related to myself and things in which I’m involved, which is why I found myself standing in the Middletown Barnes & Noble in my dirty carpentry garb a couple of hours ago flipping to the index of Steve Laffey’s just-released book, Primary Mistake: How the Washington Republican Establishment Lost Everything in 2006 (and Sabotaged My Senatorial Campaign) (see ad at left). And sure enough, Anchor Rising appears several times. (Although none of the contributors are mentioned by name, some commenters are.)
The most extended mention (p. 117) raises some interesting questions, which I may ask (and answer, of course) at greater length, perhaps in a Projo column:
But in the Union’s smallest state, where all politics is local, it’s a slightly different story. To be sure, the blogs in Rhode Island played a major role in this campaign, just not the role they thought.
… Every once in a blue moon, one of these blogs posts a scoop, but the true role fo the Rhode Island blogs is to serve as an outlet for political aggression, especially in the winter months when the weather puts a damper on door-to-door campaigning.
But unlike knocking on doors, the blog wars between the Laffey and Chafee camps was not really about the votes. After all, it was a relatively small group of insiders and politicos who followed the daily posts and comments. No, blogging was a New Age form of psychological warfare and, as a fringe benefit, an immensely enjoyable form of entertainment. See, the key to winning the blog wars came down to two things: organization and a robust sense of humor. …
As far as organization went, nothing topped our finely tuned blogging machine in the form of “blog alerts.” Every time a post went up on one of the blogs relating to the race, a local Laffey lover took it upon himself to send an e-mail around to a group of trusted supporters with instructions to inundate the blogosphere with the Laffey message. Ranging from levels 1 through 5, a typical e-mail went like this: “Blog Alert Level 5: Chafee is voting against Alito. Go to town!” or “Blog Alert Level 5: On Anchor Rising, there is a post basically condemning the Chafee personal attack ads”…
Laffey goes on to describe the commenter nickname themes that many of you will recall not-so-fondly.
The alert system and the themes both point to the reason that I think the Laffey campaign’s handling of blogs wound up hurting more than it helped. The stridency and general tone (which came across more as heavily insulting than light-hearted) turned some potentially avid supporters into, at best, reluctant supporters who could stand the other candidate even less, and anybody who had any leanings toward Chafee for reasons of comparable electability was magnificently confirmed in those leanings.
As I’ve said previously, I don’t think Anchor Rising, or blogs generally, played a big role in the last election in this state. For his part, Laffey gives the impression that blogs’ “major role” was mainly to enable his supporters to blow off steam. I can only hope, for multiple reasons, that his assessment is different next time around.