What do Duncan Hunter and Howard Dean have in common?
The most obvious answer is "absolutely nothing."
And that answer is mostly correct. But the truth is they may have one bit of commonality.
Howard Dean's 2004 campaign got most of its starch from the liberal netroots - left-wing bloggers and their readers- desperate to find an anti-war candidate to back.
This year it's the Reagan Republicans, or the "true conservatives," who are casting about for someone to get behind.
Hunter may just be their man.
The obscure California congressman is a Vietnam vet, a foreign policy hawk, a budget hawk, strongly anti-abortion and anti-gay rights, and -for good measure- he's big on the idea of a fence on our southern border to keep out illegal immigrants.
He parts company with most conservatives on trade, but there is a school of thought that says his aversion to NAFTA-like agreements may help him win back some Reagan Democrats in large industrial states like Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Illinois.
And Hunter's getting noticed in the right-wing blogosphere, where he's putting up a strong showing in a February straw poll being conducted on sites like The Right Wing News and several others.
The results, which are being aggregated and updated by GOPBloggers.org, show Hunter was named as the first choice by about 16% of those responding to the poll. That's good for third place behind Newt Gingrich (32%), who has not said much about running at this point, and Rudy Giuliani (21%). Mitt Romney is fourth at 10%.
Hunter's "acceptability" numbers are even stronger. In addition to asking readers to pick their first choice, the poll also takes a reading of which candidates would be acceptable and which would not.
In this category, Hunter finishes a solid second behind Gingrich, with Giuliani and Mitt Romeny pretty much tied at third. The rankings are determined by subtracting the candidates' "unacceptable" votes from their "acceptable" votes.
Other second-tier "true conservatives," Sam Brownback and Mike Huckabee, barely register in the blogger poll.
Despite his strong showing in the poll, Hunter is barely a blip in most scientific polls. But his chief goal right now is to get his name out there and the blogosphere is one way to get that done.
John McCain, trying desperately to become the "true conservative" with his hawkish war stance and newfound fondness for right-wing religious zealots, is the first-choice of just 2% of respondents to the right-wing-blogger poll and his "acceptable" rating is a negative 52.
McCain, in fact, is not well liked in the right-wing blogosphere. His reputation there is so shaky his staff recently held what one blogger described as a "couples therapy" session with bloggers to improve the campaign's standing with them.
So it's Hunter right now creating the online buzz among conservatives. But there's no way to tell if he'll be able to repeat Dean's lightining-in-a-bottle success.
It's also possible he could end up more like another fiercly dogmatic, little-known congressman who has some zing on the Internet - Ohio's Dennis Kucinich.