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Flying Too Close To The Blogs?

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We've explored how just about anyone with a camera and computer can cause problems and headaches for political candidates they disagree with, but sometimes they can be hazardous to those they support, too. Connecticut phenom Ned Lamont learned that the hard way this week when he was dragged into a mess caused by one of the bloggers who has been given so much credit for his political rise.

Lamont, of course, is the anti-war Democrat who appears poised to defeat longtime Senator Joe Lieberman in the party's Connecticut primary next Tuesday. While he's getting plenty of attention from major news outlets now, he's been a star in the blogosphere for months, specifically among what is known as the netroots, a collection of progressive bloggers active in political campaigns. Lamont has embraced the support and benefited from it. But when one blogger posted an image of Lieberman in blackface this week, Lamont distanced himself, saying, "I don't know anything about the blogs."

Slate's John Dickerson takes Lamont to task for saying something demonstrably misleading, and conservative bloggers have been having fun with the incident. Lieberman was quick to try and make this an issue in the race (where polls suggest a big lead for the insurgent candidate) and it received some coverage in the state.

It's unlikely this episode will have much of an impact on the outcome of the primary Tuesday but Dickerson reports it's being watched very closely as political operatives seek to learn just how this new media world works :

It's tempting to write this whole business off as a meaningless tempest, and I doubt it will change the primary's outcome. But I traded two e-mails with strategists involved in 2008 presidential campaigns who saw Lamont's fix as a cautionary story about getting too close to this new force in politics. We're all watching the Lamont race—bloggers, Republicans, Democrats and hacks like me—to see how powerful, sustaining, and relevant the online activists are. Candidates and campaign managers don't like unpredictable events, and bloggers are highly unpredictable. They knew that about the bloggers who would be against them. They hadn't focused until now on the hazard of bloggers on their side.