Throughout his long career, Mr. Bailey often seemed to be at the forefront of political and technological trends. In 1967, he and John Deardourff formed one of Washington’s first major political consulting firms, Bailey, Deardourff & Associates, to champion moderate Republican candidates throughout the country.
They devised an advertising campaign that almost got Ford elected, despite trailing Democratic challenger Jimmy Carter by 33 points in August. Ford lost the popular vote, 50 to 48 percent, in what Washington Post political reporter Lou Cannon called “the most remarkable comeback in the history of American presidential politics.”
Gerald Rafshoon, who was Carter’s communications director, said Tuesday that Mr. Bailey had “one of the best political minds I have ever known.”
In the 1970s and 1980s, Mr. Bailey helped guide many Republicans to victory in senatorial and gubernatorial elections, but he became disgusted with the growing partisanship and influence of money in politics. In 1987, he turned to journalism as one of the founders of what was originally the Presidential Campaign Hotline, later shortened to just the Hotline, a daily digest of political news from throughout the nation.
“The Hotline was the first political Web site,” the current editor, Reid Wilson, said Tuesday. “It was the first place that aggregated political news from outside the Beltway.”
Long before the Politico Web site or 24-hour cable news channels, the Hotline helped build an appetite for constant political news.
The Hotline was first distributed by fax before going online. Even with subscription rates of more than $4,000 a year, it became essential reading for journalists, campaign workers and political junkies of every stripe.
“The Hotline changed the way journalists covered campaigns,” said Les Francis, a Democratic political strategist. “If you were on the campaign trail, the first question each day was, ‘Have you read the Hotline?’ ”
Mr. Bailey started the Hotline with a onetime Democratic political consultant, Roger Craver, to ensure that it would avoid a partisan slant. He hired eager young journalists who were willing to rise at 4 a.m. to clip newspapers.
“When it started in ’87,” “the only other entities online had to do with Wall Street and pornography,” Chuck Todd, who worked for the Hotline from 1992 to 2007 and is now chief White House correspondent for NBC News, recalled in an interview. “I remember when we put the Hotline on the Web in 1994, I think we had 10 people.”