“This is about a new direction for the American people,” said Howard Dean at a rally at the Netroots Nations conference in Austin Texas over the weekend. The event gathered some 3000 blogger-activists. Dean was among a number of Democrats attending the four-day long meet, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Al Gore. Gore received a number of standing ovations and called on the assembled bloggers to aid a campaign to within a decade insure all energy used in the US is based on renewable sources.

Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama addressed the gathering via video while on his tour abroad. Obama stressed the grassroots character of his vision for a new progressive majority: “I’ve always believed that grassroots movements are the most powerful means of bringing about lasting change” he said.

The Obama campaign’s grassroots strategy encompasses all 50 states and is besting the GOP in polling in areas formerly dominated by the Republican right. “We’re already competing hard across the country, from Colorado, to Montana, to Virginia, to South Dakota, even Alaska,” he declared.

The Democrat emphasized efforts to construct a lasting infrastructure: “We’re building the lasting infrastructure that will not only help us win in November, but build the progressive movement for years to come.” Obama continued, “We’ve got over 1 million activists on . These have organized over 70,000 events and made millions of phone calls from home and formed thousands of grassroots advocacy groups.”

Obama’s approach was echoed in one of the workshops at Netroots, where campaign aid Steve Hildebrand stressed the movement building strategy of the campaign. Garance Franke-Ruta of the Washington Post reports that Hildebrand stressed that in Obama’s view ‘every state is a field state,” where a huge voter registration effort will be undertaken after the Labor Day weekend.

The goal from the beginning was to build a movement. ‘Barack’s point was, winning the presidency would be remarkable,” continues Hildebrand, “but building a movement at the grass-roots to actually get an agenda passed would be worth anything and everything they would have to go through.’

Strategists expertly devised an “on-line, off-line strategy” to achieve this goal. In this regard, the Post quotes Hildebrand: ‘The online campaign component was going to be critical, but it had to be married to offline efforts. ‘If our people on the Internet weren’t also organizing on the ground, we weren’t going to be as effective,’ said Hildebrand. ‘Barack had to be a different kind of candidate. He had to be authentic. If he ran and he ran as a traditional kind of candidate, he was not going to be successful. … He had to take a different path.’