Campaigning Without the Media

Kevin Drum:

Palin is, in some sense, sui generis. And yet, I wonder if her press strategy is really such a unique consequence of her celebrity-hood or rather a sign of things to come? There's no question that she's pulled off her particular schtick better than anyone else in American politics, but there are others who have gone a ways down this road too. One is Barack Obama, who restricted press access to a startling degree during his presidential campaign. Keeping presidential campaign reporters on a tight leash is a trend that's been building for years, with every campaign more tightly controlled than the last, but still, Obama pretty clearly took this to a new level.

The other example who comes to mind (since I live in California), is Meg Whitman, who just ran a high-profile primary campaign in a big state with virtually no interaction with the mainstream press. She gave speeches, she ran ads (boy did she run ads), and she spoke to friendly reporters occasionally, but that was about it. And guess what? It worked. She proved that you really don't need the press anymore to run a successful campaign.

Now, obviously there are some catches to all this. Obama, like Palin, had a strong aura of celebrity that he could milk. And Meg Whitman has untold riches to spend. Your ordinary schmoe candidate in a smallish state or a single congressional district can't count on either of those things.

Still, I'm putting my money on the Palin-ization of politics. Partly this is because the mainstream press is dying anyway, and partly it's because Palin and others are demonstrating that you really don't need conventional press coverage to win. In fact, as Rand Paul and Sharron Angle can testify, it's a real risk. Between YouTube and Twitter and Facebook and blogs and friendly talk radio hosts -- as well as more conventional things like TV ads and database-driven phone outreach -- who needs the New York Times? Increasingly, I'll bet the answer is, no one.

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