Some of the organizers liked to call themselves the vast left-wing conspiracy, a play on the time when Hillary Clinton, during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, referred to her husband's antagonists as "a vast right-wing conspiracy." (Don't be too serious: Neither name refers to criminal conspiracies or wrongdoing.) And they based some of their ideas on older organizations they saw on the right. The Center for American Progress, for example, was modeled in part on the Heritage Foundation, and Media Matters on the conservative Media Research Center.
But the Center for American Progress, founded by former Clinton White House chief of staff John Podesta, turned into as much a war room as a think tank, spinning off Think Progress and other overtly partisan political message centers. Media Matters became a research operation indistinguishable from the Obama campaign. (In fact, its founder, right-wing-hitman-turned-left-wing-hitman David Brock, hopes to become a major Democratic super-PAC player.)
It's fair to say that in terms of purely partisan impact, the Center for American Progress and Media Matters wield more influence than their older models on the right.
Of course, they're not the only parts of the vast left-wing conspiracy. There are the traditional regions of the media, academia and Hollywood, too. For example, earlier this month the AMC series "Mad Men" featured a scene in which a character who works for 1960s-era New York Mayor John Lindsay was on the phone discussing campaign appearances. "Well, tell Jim his honor's not going to Michigan," the character says, "because (George) Romney's a clown and I don't want him standing next to him." (Mitt Romney's son Tagg had a quick response on Twitter: "Seriously, lib media mocking my dead grandpa?")
Of course, Romney has new resources on his side, too. The fact that Romney was doing an interview with Breitbart News, founded by the late conservative Web entrepreneur Andrew Breitbart, is an indication that Romney will be using new right-leaning media to press his case. And conservatives are founding other organizations, like the Washington Free Beacon, that are specifically designed to try to counter the strength of the new organizations on the left.
But when Romney talks about the vast left-wing conspiracy, he's not joking.