Patrick Hynes

Once it became clear during the 2006 campaign that the Republicans would probably lose both Houses of Congress, some conservatives suggested that a bloodletting might not be such a bad thing. It takes an occasional thumping to renew the mind and refresh the spirit, they argued. The jury is still out on that sentiment but in at least one respect Capitol Hill Republicans appear willing to break with their old pattern and try something new. Republicans in the Senate have begun to take the New Media seriously.

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced the hire this week of Jon Henke to manage New Media relations for the Senate Republican caucus. Henke is highly respected blogger at and served as the Netroots Coordinator for Sen. George Allen’s unsuccessful re-election campaign last year. Later in the week Sen. Jim DeMint (R-S.C.) announced the hire of Tim Chapman, formerly of the Heritage Foundation and, as his new Senior Communication Advisor. Part of Chapman’s responsibilities will be to manage New Media relations for DeMint’s Senate Republican Steering Committee.

Both hires indicate a new commitment on the part of top Republicans to engage the grassroots and improve their message dissemination capabilities.

Despite his recent resume, Henke should not be mistaken for a political hack. He has a profound understanding of the dynamics of modern communication: its velocity, its asperity, its strengths and its limitations. Nevertheless, I sat on a blogger panel recently with Henke and was impressed with his practical political analyses.

His political worldview is libertarian. But don’t count Henke among those utopian dreamers bent on recalibrating the social contract. “I call it Neolibertarianism, which is a practical, political approach to preserving liberties,” he says.

“I'm very excited about this position for a variety of reasons; because of the opportunity it gives me, because of the importance of an effective opposition, and because of the positive signal it sends that Republicans are taking New Media engagement seriously,” Henke wrote on his blog.

Henke got started in his new job right away by inviting conservative bloggers to join in a conference call with Sen. McConnell to discuss “policy, our game plan, and how we’re approaching our role in this Senate.”

Patrick Hynes

Patrick Hynes is the president of New Media Strategics, a blog relations consultancy. He is the proprietor of Ankle Biting Pundits and the author of In Defense of the Religious Right (Nelson Current).

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