Political blogs have become an integral part of the election process in the United States.  Both Democrats and Republicans use these web page commentaries to influence voters, raise funds, and motivate activists. As VOA's Brian Padden reports, while the Internet offers equal access to all, not all blogs are equal. 

When not working for an Internet development company, William Beutler writes a conservative leaning blog, called "Blog P.I."  

"Yesterday I got 193 visitors," he said.  "That is not quite accurate.  I got 193 page loads.  That means the page itself was loaded 193 times.  It could have been one person reloading it 193 times."

"Our research team has two major functions," says Faiz Shakir, who works full-time blogging for the Center For American Progress, a research institute for liberal causes. "One is to produce an e-newsletter every morning called "Progress Report" which goes out to 80,000 people and then the blog "ThinkProgress" which receives approximately 200,000 visitors a day and is one of the top three political blogs in the world."

Political blogging or the online publishing of commentary is now part of the political landscape in America. Bloggers use Internet sites to help raise funds for candidates, promote causes and get out the vote.  Bloggers can gain prominence - and audience - by being quoted in traditional media like The New York Times or  being linked to an already popular blog like the Daily Kos. But Matthew Nisbet with American University's School of Communication says political blogs tend to be polarizing.

"The audience is ever more fragmented and there is really, there is increasingly less of a space where people from both the left and the right are engaging and consuming in the same news content and are actually trading ideas in arguments with each other," he says.

During the U.S. presidential campaign, liberal and progressive sites have been more active and popular.  Many of them began in opposition to the Iraq war. Shakir says the Democratic party is more comfortable with open discourse.  

"Over time what you've seen is that progressives have dominated the space because they are more comfortable with expressing their views regardless of what the party thinks of it," Shakir says.  

Buetler concedes he and fellow conservative bloggers have been less effective.  He says they have grown disenchanted with the failures of the Bush administration, from the cost and conduct of the Iraq war to the proposed government bailout of financial markets.     

"It is more difficult to create a movement when your party is already in power and you don't like what your party is doing," he says. "In a way, the best thing for online conservative activists might be Barack Obama as president. When you hold power for long enough, eventually you start to go stale."

Both parties are paying close attention to political bloggers. In a close election, they could be the key to victory.