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Iowa Grows Crop of Political Blogs

By Jose Antonio Vargas
DES MOINES -- Iowa, like other Midwestern states, is getting wired.

Last year, Verizon Wireless spent nearly $42 million to improve its digital network in the Hawkeye State. Other companies, big and small, have also invested in wiring the state for online access, and free wireless connections have become a norm at local coffee-shops.

"Usage is higher for young people," says Steve Hildebrand, the veteran strategist who ran Al Gore's Iowa operation in 2000 and who now advises Sen. Barack Obama, "but certainly everyone -- young and old, in the city and rural areas -- is on there."

And with the new ease of connection, a small but influential home-grown Iowa blogosphere has blossomed. At the Mars Cafe, where the lattes and pastries come with a complimentary Wi-Fi connection, 22-year-old rising local blog star Chris Woods sat down with The Trail to assess the state of political blogging in the Hawkeye State.

"For the most part, the blogging community is small," says Woods, who blogs at Bleeding Heartland. "But Iowa's blogging community reaches the core activists, the core voters and caucus-goers, who come online and talk politics."

Three years ago, when insurgent Democrat Howard Dean was dubbed the Internet candidate, folks here could only name one well-known blogger: John Deeth.

But three years is a lifetime in online political space, and now Deeth is writing for Iowa Independent, the most read blog in the state.

Iowa Independent, a group blog written by many of the leading lights of the state's growing blogosphere, draws more than 10,000 unique viewers a week, according to the site. It's a reported blog that's deliberately non-partisan. This weekend's top stories include a posting on Republican Rep. Ron Paul ("The Ron Paul Question: Will Enthusiasm Translate To Support?") and on turn-out for the Democratic candidates ("Western Iowa Could Decide Democratic Caucuses). In the latter, Douglas Burns, a veteran reporter-turned-blogger, writes:

The intense push in western Iowa, particularly among Democrats, is result of the disproportionate influence we wield in Iowa caucuses. In short, western Iowa will determine the Democratic finish here -- and most likely the next president of the United States.

Dien Judge, another Iowa Independent blogger -- and also the son of the Patty Judge, the state's lieutenant governor -- says he is routinely contacted by the presidential campaigns. "They know that in a race this close, especially the Democratic race, anything and everything, including the blogs, are important," says Dien, 34.

Most blogs are inevitably more opinion-driven. Though two conservative blogs stand out -- The Real Sporer and Conservative Cyclones -- the state's more prominent blogs lean left. There's Century of the Common Iowan, written by Patrick Stansberry, a 44-year-old teacher, and Iowa True Blue, where Gordon Fischer, a lawyer and former chair of the Iowa Democratic Party, blogs about his support for Sen. Barack Obama, whom he's advising.

And, of course Bleeding Heartland, run by Woods, a senior at Drake University, just a few blocks from the Mars Cafe. Woods sometimes blogs while at Mars, posting items in the down-time between his four classes at Drake.

"Our blogs in Iowa are nothing like Daily Kos or MyDD," says Woods of the popular liberal blogs. "But our blogging community is getting stronger, no doubt."

By Web Politics Editor  |  December 30, 2007; 11:07 AM ET
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Completely forgotten is Iowa's

I mean you want retreaded campaign press releases and information download for the hive, please by all mean visit some of the afore mentioned blogs. But if you want political that isn't spoon fed to you, visit the Corn Beltway Boys.

Posted by: jordan1995 | January 2, 2008 8:21 AM | Report abuse

It's depressing that not one of Iowa's excellent female bloggers/reporters were included in this report.

Posted by: lorna.sysney | December 31, 2007 11:57 PM | Report abuse

Glad the Post mentioned all of these Iowa blogs, but it left plenty out as well.

You can get a full list here along with links to the latest posts:

and here you can see which blogs are getting the most local buzz:

Posted by: dmastio1 | December 31, 2007 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Posted by: david-goodner | December 31, 2007 10:35 AM | Report abuse

Absolutely, though the supplanting process is slower than some 'net enthusiasts would want. One particularly positive development is that the range of topics discussed online is much, much greater than TV or mainstream print journalists have covered in the past. Ron Paul won't be the last candidate to find a devoted niche online and use its support to break out into the broader public.

Also, this article is a good indicator of the power of local blogs to shape local politics. I'm baffled why more candidates (state, local, congressional, senatorial) didn't run (usually very cheap) ads on local blogs in the '06 cycle, since they're a great way to reach potential volunteers/supporters/donors. The big national blogs get most of the media attention, but the local blogosphere is where a lot of the action is. And they're a lot easier to break into/get coverage from than a Daily Kos or some such.

Colin Delany

Posted by: cpd | December 30, 2007 1:49 PM | Report abuse

This could be just another indicator of exactly how powerful the internet is becoming in shaping decision in this country. I would dare say, even though I am posting this on a Post site, that it is supplanting traditional print media. Most Americans own computers and the younger generation are obviously very in tune with this media source. Fewer Americans today subscribe to newspapers and magazines.

I think this is one of the reasons we have seen the rise of less conventional candidates like Ron Paul. Normally Paul's ideas, as bold as they are, would never have taken root in traditional sources. Especially since his opinions shake up entrenched ideology. However, through other mediums they have gained traction which has now spilled back into main stream channels. Both mediums seem to contributing to the other. Now, as a legitimate candidate he is threatening to actually do well in caucuses and primaries.
Again, this shows the power of the internet. Which, by the way, could be argued that it more closely mirrors free speech priniciples. The common man gaining voice.

Posted by: bgodley | December 30, 2007 1:34 PM | Report abuse

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