Liberal bloggers gain candidates' attention

CHICAGO Liberal bloggers can count the ways they are making their presence felt in the presidential race.

More than 1,500 bloggers are expected this weekend at the second YearlyKos Convention, which has about 70 sponsors, including unions and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

Seven of eight Democratic candidates were scheduled to address the convention on Saturday, including top-tier candidates Hillary Rodham Clinton, Barack Obama and John Edwards. Sen. Joe Biden will be in his home state promoting his recently-published autobiography.

The response reflects the power of the party's liberal voters who hold sway in the primaries and the emergence of the Internet blogs in daily political discourse. A meeting of the centrist Democratic Leadership Council earlier this week failed to attract any of the White House hopefuls.

DailyKos founder Markos Moulitsas Zuniga said there's clear appeal for the candidates to attend the bloggers' convention.

"We provide bodies, we provide troops on the ground," he said. "It's a more activist audience."

Blogger Rebekah Martin said bloggers have a responsibility that extends beyond their computer keyboards.

"You've got to push back from the keyboard, get out and do something for your candidate," said Martin, a software analyst from Austin, Texas.

Harvard University's Elaine Kamarck said the candidates are drawn to the bloggers because getting high marks on the Web can translate to donations and support without a campaign ever spending money.

"What they're doing is creating buzz and harvesting opinions and that turns into dollars," said Kamarck, a public policy lecturer at Harvard's John F. Kennedy School of Government who once worked in the Clinton administration.

The bloggers' reach is obvious to the candidates.

"You're talking about hundreds of thousands if not millions dedicated progressive activists, people who want to make a difference and change this country for the better," said Peter Daou, Internet director for the Clinton campaign.

Blogs like DailyKos also get attention in the mainstream press, which helps to elevate the importance of bloggers, said Jeffrey Cole, director of the Center for the Digital Future at the University of Southern California's Annenberg School of Communication.

Recently, DailyKos has been part of a campaign by liberal activists to pressure advertisers to abandon the Fox News Channel. Among the grievances is Fox's Bill O'Reilly, who has been critical of left-wing bloggers.

"This blog tends to make noise," said blogger Bob Carden of Phoenix, who posts to DailyKos.

For New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, it's a priority to court bloggers by meeting with them on the campaign trail because they can spread the campaign's message around the country, said his spokeswoman Katie Roberts.

"It's a very integral part of the campaign," she said.