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Case Reopened: Blogging after Iowa

      Does anybody here know how to play this game? as Casey Stengel asked about his New York Mets. 

     Did the Internet draft the wrong candidate?

     Did John Kerry and Iowa kill what we call “the transformation”? 

     Are we back (in New Hampshire) to a conventional slugging contest in the old media and field organization?

     Can Wesley Clark still be described as a candidate from the blogosphere? 

     Will Kerry ever be bloggable?  Does it matter?

     Just where are we now in the narrative line about the evolution of campaigning and the conversation of democracy? 

    Tuesday was a hard day of reappraisal among blog fantasists.  But 24 hours after the Iowa returns I am feeling better and not so humble again.  Why is it that only bloggers feel expected to apologize for our bad guesses?  The shrewest pollsters, pundits and opportunists in the game (including the Dean schmoozers Al Gore, Bill Bradley, Tom Harkin and Jimmy Carter!) have all given us faulty snapshots of the political rockslide we’re in–and will be in for some time.  Iowa was long supposed to be all Gephart and Dean.  Two days before the caucuses it was said to be a four-way tie.  Every guess about about this kaleidoscope is an instant absurdity.

    It is still the most absorbingly fresh and exciting presidential campaign since 1960, and the Internet effect is still critical, no matter the Dean flop in Iowa.  For a year now, it’s the Internet (including MoveOn and MeetUp) that has crystallized the possibility, articulated the opportunity, enlisted younger voters–and spectacularly built the turnout in Iowa.  And the campaign is still young.

   We bloggers should be prepared for a contest of sorts with the dinosaurs of old media.  The Iowa results were a victory for the other guys.  Television–both the paid commercials and the robotic, idiotic repetition in “news” coverage of the “angry” theme–was brutal on Dean and the amateur energy of his campaign.  The national newmagazines mugged him–TIME with its “Who is the Real Howard Dean” cover, Newsweek with its “Doubts About Dean.”  [I am reading with giddiness and horror Kevin Phillips’ “American Dynasty,” detailing doubts about the House of Bush that the newsmags have always avoided.]  Tom Brokaw reported on caucus night in Iowa that there was no discernible trace of Internet influence on the race.  Bob Novak opined on CNN that there never was any such thing as a Dean movement. 

     Chins up, bloggers!  We can take this teasing.  Yes, I gulp at my own misreading of John Kerry’s return to life in Iowa.  And still Kerry in Iowa was an unconvincing win.   A very large portion of the voters he converted in the last hours of the Iowa campaign were over 65.  Out of his own pocket, Kerry’s campaign spent more than $50 for each of the caucus votes he won Monday night.  Is this the new politics?  Has it crushed, or supplanted, or undone the new politics we’ve been looking at?  Your guess is as good as mine.

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