In politics and campaigns, we are constantly trying to find ways to use new forms of communication for traditional purposes. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. And sometimes, we accidentally stumble upon it. Herein is the story of the first presidential candidate to ‘blog.’
In early 2003, I was the campaign manager for Howard Dean’s presidential campaign. As I was sitting in my office responding to the deluge of emails that now accompany modern campaigns, a young staffer, Zephyr Teachout, came running into my office. “Rick, Rick! Howard just blogged! He is the first presidential candidate to blog!”
“Oh, you mean clogged,” I responded. “I didn’t know Howard knew how to clog.” I may not be a practitioner of traditional dancing, but I know of the steps. Kind of.
“No! He blogged!” she screamed.
“That’s what I said. He clogged.”
Zephyr’s shoulders slumped and with exasperation. “No, blogged. With a ‘b.’”
“Oh, blogged. Blogged. Of course. Yeah. Sure. Blogged. . . . Blogged?”
She shook her head with her eyes closed. “Its short for ‘Web Log.’ Blog.”
I drew a deep breath and said, “Yeah, that’s great, and Howard is the first presidential candidate to . . . ,” I paused, “To blog?”
“Yes.” Zephyr left my office still shaking her head at the troglodyte who was her boss. A few minutes later Dean stepped into my office.
“I hear you blogged,” I said, tossing off my newfound technical term.
“I did what?” Dean asked.
“You just blogged. You are the first presidential candidate to blog.”
“I . . . blogged?”
“Yes. That is what Zephyr just told me.”
“All I did was type some stuff on a keyboard about my Iraq position and responding to the Powell deal at the UN.”
“Well, apparently you blogged.”
“I just repeated what we put out in the press release.”
So that was the beginning of presidential campaign blogging – a new form of communication with a traditional purpose – telling the world the candidate’s position on an important issue.
Later that night, I talked to Joseph Napolitan, the first person to describe his daily travails as “political consulting.” I told him that Dean “blogged” and described the contents of the blog “post.” Napolitan admitted he did not now how “to blog” but he understood the purpose of “blogging.” Then he laughed and once again repeated one of his favorite mantras. “All campaign are different. All campaigns are the same.”