By Stephen Dinan
The Washington Times
March 31, 2008
Even as talk radio was brutalizing Sen. John McCain in the Republican presidential primaries, conservative bloggers reached a respectful truce with the Arizona senator over touchy issues and gave him what the campaign called a “tremendous positive psychological” boost.
The main reason: Mr. McCain’s blogger outreach, the most extensive of any presidential campaign in either party, helped keep him afloat in the dark days last summer when the major press was sizing up his campaign grave. During those times, Mr. McCain got attention and digital ink from the bloggers he invited to biweekly conference calls, and got a chance to talk policy.
“During the unpleasantness, whenever Senator McCain put himself in front of reporters, the question was always, ‘How much did you raise today, when are you dropping out,’ ” said Patrick Hynes, a conservative blogger who Mr. McCain hired in 2006. “And then we’d put him on the phone with bloggers, and they’d want to talk about Iraq, and pork and chasing down al Qaeda.”
For the campaign, it came down to deploying the campaign’s best asset — Mr. McCain himself — in a forum where he can excel.
Mr. Hynes said the back-and-forth with bloggers took “a great deal of sting out of the criticisms” over immigration, Mr. McCain’s push for campaign-finance changes and other areas where conservatives have registered their discontent with the senator, who has secured enough delegates to win the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.