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INSIDE POLITICS
Inside Politics

Netroots activism arrives

By Bill Schneider
CNN Political Unit

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Ohio
Paul Hackett

Netroots activism. Ever hear of it?

You will. Because this week marks its arrival as a force in American politics. It can claim the political Play of the Week.

The blogosphere is supposed to be the realm of anarchy. Bloggers are said to be fierce individualists, spouting off online. Sitting in the park. Alone.

Like Bob Brigham. He and his partner Tim Tagaris run a Democratic blog called swingstateproject.com. Brigham is in San Francisco. Tagaris is in Ohio.

They never met until this year when they discovered a cause, or more precisely, a candidate -- Democrat Paul Hackett, running in a special election for an Ohio congressional seat that most national Democrats wrote off as hopeless.

But Hackett, a Marine who served in Iraq, showed fight.

"We have to say it loud that we are proud to fight for what this great country stands for," he said.

The liberal blogs got organized.

"A hundred to 150 bloggers helped raise money, turned out volunteers, got people down to the district and emailed their friends in Ohio," said Bob Brigham of swingstateproject.com.

Ever hear of a blogswarm?

According to CNN blog reporter Jacki Schechner, "This was a pretty decent example of a lot of people getting behind one thing at exactly the same time." A blogswarm.

The bloggers raised a lot more money for the Hackett campaign than the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee.

"We raised around $500,000 from the netroots, which means we outspent the National Republican Congressional Committee and we're three times as relevant as the DCCC in terms of cold hard cash," Brigham said.

On the final day of the campaign they needed $30,000. "So Bob from Swing State sent out an email, made phone calls, said, 'Here is what we need, we need $30,000 in a very short period of time.'" Schechner said. "And the next day, ActBlue delivered a check for $60,000."

ActBlue is a Web site that raises money for Democrats.

In the end, Hackett lost. But he came a whole lot closer than Washington pros expected him to.

"This was a success," Hackett said in his concession speech. "We should all be proud, so let's rock on."

People often compare the Internet to the Wild West. Here's an update.

"The lone gunslingers of the blogosphere could work as a posse, and that's what let us raise an army," Brigham said. And carry off the political Play of the Week.

The bloggers made their point -- on their Web site, of course: "The Republican Party is on notice. For that matter, the Democratic Party establishment is on notice; get with the program or we will leave you behind.''

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