Rick Perry seems to have found his message and his bloggers. And it helps if those bloggers delivering “the message of conservatism” wear “I GOT MY TWEET ON @ THE PERRY 2010 BLOGGER SUMMIT” T-shirts.
Saturday was the 2010 Perry Bloggers Summit, in which Perry-friendly online activists came to learn the tricks of the trade. Attendees heard from such big-name conservatives as Politics Daily columnist Matt Lewis, PJTV CEO Roger Simon and author and commentator Andrew Breitbart, as well as Perry himself, who's clearly getting with the program: His Web team in 2006 consisted of exactly one person.
But while the enthusiasm was consistent throughout the day, the message was not. “Don’t get mad, except on purpose,” Lewis advised. “You’re going to get more flies with honey.” Breitbart, on the other hand, said of the perceived left-leaning mainstream media, “If they’re not going to self-correct, it’s our obligation to destroy them.” That dichotomy seemed appropriate at an event put on by a man who is the longest serving governor in Texas history and has been in office since the mid-1980s but who plays the anti-establishment card and can rally a crowd by saying, “We’re part of a revolution.”
In a race that increasingly looks like it could be thrown into a run-off, Perry must attempt to straddle the disparate elements of the party represented by his GOP primary opponents: U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison’s inside-the-tent wing and Debra Medina’s Tea Party activist wing. Maybe for this reason, there were very few mentions at the Blogger Summit of the Texas Republican Party.
Come to think of it, there were very few mentions of Texas, period. The best-known speakers — Breitbart, Lewis, Simon and Patrick Ruffini of the RNC — weren’t Texans. Nor were the issues what you’d call “Texas-based.” Breitbart, despite the fiery words, was mostly focused on media bias in the 90s, relating anecdotes about Clarence Thomas' confirmation hearings and the Monica Lewinsky scandal, though he did air concerns about Hollywood’s liberal leanings as showcased, he said, in the movie Avatar. He also argued that someone should start making more movies in Texas, evidently unaware of recent efforts, suppported by Perry, to offer incentives to productions that film here.
Other panels had a similar focus on national issues. Lewis and Texas-based conservative blogger Melissa Clouthier had a lengthy discussion on the Florida Senate primary between Charlie Crist and Marco Rubio but made virtually no mention of the Texas primaries.
Not that participants seemed to care. Several were still on a high from spending Friday at a gun range with the governor, who offered some impromptu shooting lessons and even let others try shooting his personal handgun. “It’s one thing to say you support the Second Amendment, it’s an entirely different matter to practice what you preach in such an open and awesome manner,” wrote summit participant Robbie Cooper, who blogs at UrbanGrounds.com.
The Hutchison camp's response to the national focus? Unless you’re running for national office, “there’s really no point to inviting non-Texan bloggers,” said campaign spokesman Joe Pounder.
Elsewhere on the program, there was a nut-and-bolts discussion of how to blog and how to use Twitter — training that is increasingly a staple of campaigns at this level. Democratic gubernatorial candidate Bill White’s campaign has held a series of social media house parties with lessons on using Twitter and Facebook effectively. Campaign spokeswoman Katy Bacon says White’s supporters have been proactive in developing an online presence, and the campaign tries to return the favor. “We make a point of being very accessible, not only to supporters and journalists but to that hybrid activist-reporter-blogger,” Bacon said.
The Hutchison campaign's online strategy includes, in addition to Twitter and Facebook, a social media network called the “Kay Network” and a feature which allows supporters to make campaign calls from their homes. But don’t expect any blogger summits. “I don’t see the strategic rationale for the event — all campaigns are involved in online strategy,” Pounder said.
All in all, summit participants seemed fired up, as evidenced by the many tweets with the hashtag #perrysummit.