To get a sense of the state of on-line political world today, consider this: RightOnline, the annual gathering of conservative and libertarian bloggers and activists met this weekend in Las Vegas, the biggest city in the swingiest of swing states, Nevada. NetRoots Nation, the annual confab of progressive bloggers retreated last week to Providence, in the bluest of blue states, Rhode Island. When you're feeling upbeat and confident, you want to venture out and try new things. When you're feeling lousy, some warm chicken soup and a blankie on your own coach are what you need. That's the on-line world we live in today.
I spent part of this weekend at the RightOnline conference in Vegas. Battling the massive left-media industrial complex can often seem a solitary endeavor, so it's always fun to join with allies from across the country, from blogs and news sites both small and large. It is especially fun when the smell of victory is in the air, and the meeting halls and lounges of the Venetian were absolutely overflowing with it.
Recent polling, missteps in the Obama campaign and a surprisingly aggressive Romney effort have convinced the right that, not only is Obama imminently beatable, but November could prove to be a very big victory for the conservative movement as a whole. In fact, there is a growing sense that 2010 may prove to have been just a warm-up act.
While attendees possessed an unbounded enthusiasm to defeat Obama, they chiefly all wanted to talk about one thing: Wisconsin. Scott Walker's strong victory against the entire progressive infrastructure has energized the on-line and grass roots right far more than the mid-term victories in 2010. No doubt, it was wonderful to wrest the speaker's gavel from Nancy Pelosi, but this was tempered by the fact that the victory was achieved through a swath of standard GOP politicians, each with various commitments to conservative ideas.
Walker, on the other hand, led as a conservative and campaigned as a conservative. His resounding victory in bluish state Wisconsin, after sustaining a nearly two-year temper tantrum from the entire left, has energized the on-line right to redouble its efforts to support conservative politicians and ideas.
From talking to attendees, it seems clear that much of this energy is going to be focused on down-ballot races for the House and Senate. With a Romney presidency a very real possibility, activists want to make sure there are enough conservatives in Congress to keep a President Romney and the GOP establishment from "going wobbly." The Wisconsin results give them confidence this is achievable.
Make no mistake, the on-line and grass roots right is committed to defeating Barack Obama. The Romney campaign has done enough to quell conservatives' anxiety over his record and unite them behind his campaign. They will vote for him, support him and many will even donate their time and money to his campaign. But, the bulk of their energy will be on races like Deb Fischer, Ted Cruz and Josh Mandell, among many others. Their efforts could even, in some places, provide a kind of "reverse coat-tails" that makes Romney's election a reality.
In Vegas, I saw a right that is on the march. Next year, they may even have the confidence to hold their next gathering in California or New York. NetRoots nation may have to retreat further to the warm cocoon of Burlington, Vermont.