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Richardson Shows <3 for Bloggers

By Jeff Jones and Trip Jennings
Copyright 2006 Albuquerque Journal; Journal Staff Writers
    Gov. Bill Richardson has been lavishing some <3 on bloggers.
    And they've been giving the 2008 presidential prospect some <3— that's the heart-shaped, Internet code for "love"— right back.
    Richardson this summer traveled to Las Vegas, Nev., in part to court a nationwide convention of left-leaning Internet Web log contributors.
    He spent Sunday afternoon chatting with another group of bloggers in Seattle. Last week, he launched into a plug for the blogging phenomenon during a speech at the National Association of Secretaries of State convention in Santa Fe.
    "The bloggers are here to stay," the governor told the convention-goers. "Don't dismiss those folks. They are strong. They are everywhere. They blog everything."
    The Internet is packed with people willing to share their political opinions with anyone willing to log on, and politics watchers say the so-called "blogosphere" is a force to be reckoned with on the campaign trail.
    A number of blogs promoting Richardson as a 2008 presidential contender have popped up in cyberspace. And one expert said Monday that courting bloggers is a good way for a presidential hopeful to create a buzz among the types of people who often read politics blogs: Politics junkies and journalists.
    "If you're somebody who's a savvy politician and you're trying to bump up your name recognition among a quite-specific audience," courting bloggers is the way to go, said Henry Farrell, an assistant professor from George Washington University who is co-editing a book on the influence of blogging in politics.
    Richardson's gubernatorial re-election campaign manager, Amanda Cooper, and campaign chairman, Dave Contarino, did not return messages left by the Journal seeking comment.
    But Richardson spoke of the importance of bloggers at June's convention in Las Vegas.
    "I believe bloggers are playing an increasingly important role in 2006 and 2008," Richardson was quoted as saying in— what else?— a politics blog from the Washington Post. "They are potential sources of fund-raising and political activity."
    The Post blog quoted Richardson as saying: "As a political leader, I want to find a way to deal with them for my political health."
    Bloggers have emerged as an important media and political tool.
    They first demonstrated their power in 2003, when they helped Howard Dean's 2004 presidential campaign reap tens of millions of dollars in campaign funds from over the Internet.
    This year, liberal bloggers have taken aim at Sen. Joseph Lieberman, D-Conn., whom some progressive activists have accused of betraying the party.
    A quick Google computer search using the words "Bill Richardson" and "blog" turns up a long list of sites from enthusiastic Richardson supporters around the nation.
    At the top of the list is billrichardsonblog.com, an unabashedly pro-Richardson chronicle of recent news items that also offers links to other Richardson fan sites including America for Richardson, Missouri for Richardson, and Washington for Richardson.
    "Bill Richardson is the Democratic governor of New Mexico. He's a good one. In our opinion, he'd be an even better president," billrichardsonblog.com tells its readers. "Let us convince you."
    As of Monday, the most recent entry on the pro-Bill blog applauded him for his blog-related remarks at the secretary of states' convention in Santa Fe.
    That blog entry was titled, "BR <3s Bloggers" and concluded with "thanks for the love, Bill."
    Another pro-Richardson site, americaforrichardson.org, gushed about Richardson's Sunday visit with bloggers in Seattle. That site had a link for interested readers to purchase "Between Worlds," Richardson's autobiography.
    "I know I've supported Richardson for a while now, but I have to say I was impressed," one blogger wrote of Richardson's visit. " ... Even when he disagreed with someone, he listened and didn't try to run them over with rhetoric."
    Farrell, from The George Washington University in Washington, D.C., said most blogs aren't a place to go to find unbiased opinions— but he said they never were intended to be.
    "They do have an agenda. And they're absolutely bold about what that agenda is," Farrell said.