Jamie Radtke’s campaign for the Republican nomination for U.S. Senate may not be gaining much traction in Virginia, but she is definitely stirring up a tempest in the blogosphere.
Radtke, who is running to succeed retiring Sen. James Webb (D), has been fighting an uphill battle for the GOP nod against the better-known and better-funded frontrunner, former senator George Allen. One advantage Radtke did have, it seemed, was the endorsement of influential conservative blogger Erick Erickson at RedState, who has also been critical of Allen.
But perhaps an endorsement wasn’t good enough. On Wednesday, Politico’s Ben Smith reported on an e-mail from Erickson to the Radtke campaign in response to a request from Radtke that she be allowed to speak at RedState’s convention, which happened in mid-August.
“My bosses are huge Allen friends, not just fans. They are socially connected,” Erickson wrote in the message, which was sent to Politico by Radtke’s campaign manager. “So I’m having to tread carefully in this. Happy to help, but it’s got me in a difficult position. So please come and let me introduce you to people, but just understand that I have to be delicate for now.”
Erickson’s “bosses” are the executives who run conservative Eagle Publishing, which owns RedState. In his own response to Smith’s queries, Erickson said Eagle officials “asked [that Erickson] go slower in evaluating that race instead of diving in head first.”
“It was not a commandment or order, but out of respect to the long-term relationship George Allen has with Eagle, I thought it was a reasonable request; I was happy to accommodate.”
Erickson went much further in his own post, which was published later Wednesday on RedState.
First, Erickson posted several blisteringly bad reviews of Radtke’s speech at the RedState convention — where she had, in fact, appeared to introduce the director of the Sarah Palin documentary, “The Undefeated.”
“I assume this act of self destruction in front of 400 attendees of the RedState Gathering is why Jamie Radtke’s campaign decided to orchestrate a hit job on me in the Politico after I both endorsed her campaign and allowed her to speak at the RedState Gathering,” Erickson wrote.
He acknowledged that his bosses have a “very good” relationship with Allen and that they had asked him, when it came to evaluating the race, to “please go slow for once instead of shooting first and asking questions later.”
Erickson added that while he remains no fan of Allen, the whole affair has considerably lessened his opinion of Radtke.
“Jamie Radtke is not a victim,” he wrote. “She’s a candidate. And clearly a bad one at that. Game over as far as I’m concerned.”
On Thursday, the Radtke campaign fired back in a news release, accusing Erickson of publishing “libelous pejoratives.”
“Erick’s blog goes beyond the pale,” Radtke said in the release. “He crossed the line by publishing complete falsehoods. Now, it is his responsibility to admit he did wrong, set the record straight and apologize – and that is what I am asking Erick to do.”
The entire affair has caught the attention of Virginia political blogs on both the right and the left. What’s not clear is whether engaging in such a high-profile spat with Erickson will do much to help Radtke build support.
Radtke has portrayed herself as the anti-establishment candidate, so alleging some sort of conspiracy by Allen supporters could fit into that storyline. But Erickson is also widely read by conservative activists, and his sharply negative words about her campaign probably won’t be helpful.
Update, 3:30 p.m.: The war of words between Radtke and Erickson escalated further Thursday afternoon.
An attorney for Radtke sent a letter to Erickson demanding the “immediate and prominent retraction” of his Wednesday blog item on Radtke, primarily because two anonymous reviewers were quoted in the post claiming that Radtke appeared “drunk” when she spoke to the RedState convention this month.
“Those statements are false,” wrote attorney Patrick M. McSweeney. “You plainly repeated the statements quoted above without regard to their accuracy.”
In response, Erickson posted Thursday what could be described as a backhanded apology.
“Okay. I’m sorry I put up reviews of Jamie Radtke’s speech from people who saw it and thought she had been drinking,” Erickson wrote. “She says she had not been drinking. I’ll take her at her word for it. That does then suggest she needs some serious work on giving speeches if people who saw her speaking not under the influence presumed that she was under the influence.”