Matt Towery

Unless you are a political junkie, you may not know the name Erick Erickson. But my guess is that over time most people will come to know not only his name but what he symbolizes -- the next generation of conservative leadership in America. And what a direction that could prove to be.

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I've had the opportunity over the years to know and observe some pretty obscure names that ended up making their way to the top of politics. That includes a once-unknown congressman named Newt Gingrich.

Erickson, who runs one of the most influential conservative blogs in America, RedState, has been on my radar screen for more than a year. With his recent appearance on TV's popular "Colbert Report," Erickson is emerging from the blogosphere and into a whole new world of prominence.

Having done "funny" political shows like Bill Maher's, I have a sense of the challenge it is for a conservative to match wits with talented pros that are almost certainly on the political left. It isn't easy. But Erickson did just that, despite Colbert's efforts to paint him in an unfavorable light by citing some of the blogmaster's more controversial web postings.

The point is that just a few years ago, blogs were thought of as a medium for political hacks and wackos to post whatever railings or other blather they felt like. Now blogs have morphed into a respected and influential way for those with political interests to both test and change the temperature of the political waters.

Conservatives already have established websites for their opinions, such as Townhall and Human Events, plus other sites that contain news and opinion, such as Newsmax. And there are plenty of liberal sites, such as the combination of news and opinion offered by the likes of The Huffington Post and Daily Kos.

Erickson was a practicing attorney when he started RedState more or less as a part-time hobby, and the website he formulated is a bit different. There are no syndicated columns or names of veteran news journalists on RedState, or on a sister site he runs in his home state of Georgia. Instead, Erickson and a handpicked group of other regular bloggers post stories, observations and grapevine-variety news with lightening speed.

Matt Towery

Matt Towery is a pollster, attorney, businessman and former elected official. He served as campaign strategist for Congressional, Senate, and gubernatorial campaigns. His latest book is Newsvesting: Use News and Opinion to Grow Your Personal Wealth. Follow him on Twitter @MattTowery