I met and talked with many aspiring Democratic politicians in Austin. None of them were as impressive as Anchorage Mayor Mark Begich who is running for Ted ‘Hulk Tie’ Stevens’ senate seat. When I get the energy, I will tell you the reasons that Begich has the potential to be a star in Congress, but for now I’ll just note that he ran his first television ads recently and jumped out to a 50%-41% lead.

Another impressive politician I talked to is Jim Slattery who is running for Pat ‘Cover-Up’ Roberts’ seat in Kansas. Slattery and I slung the bull over a breakfast buffet at Champions Restaurant. He’s the first politician I’ve ever strategized with that thought it was key to talk more about abortion. In this election atmosphere I would have thought it wise to keep the focus off of ‘cultural issues’. Slattery disagreed. In his heavily pro-life state he feels it is necessary to educate the voters about the impracticalities of abortion prohibition. He didn’t cite any polling to back up this assertion but he knows his state a whole heck of a lot better than I do. I suppose it’s possible that Kansas still has so many single-issue anti-choice Republicans that it is necessary to aggressively take the issue head-on.

When hobnobbing over cocktails with high-level House and Senate staffers I discovered that the House loves to blame the Senate and the Senate loves to blame the House for everything unpopular that goes on. In this case, both sides were eager to place the blame for FISA completely on the other chamber. It was amusing to witness, and also educational. When they weren’t blaming each other, they blamed telecom money rather than any high level of complicity on the Democratic side.

Markos was passing out advance copies of his new book Taking on the System: Rules for Radical Change in a Digital Era. I’m almost done with it and it is excellent. I don’t know if Harold Ford Jr. had had an opportunity to read it before he made his appearance at Netroots Nation, but if he did it might explain why he was so hostile and unhappy to be there. Kos absolutely skewers him in the book.

Mike Stark has giant panda balls-of-steel. I’m still waiting to see the edited version of his video confrontation with John Fund and Grover Norquist where he asked them if they had even been a couple.

Al Giordano is just as fun and interesting in person as you would suspect from reading The Field.

Hanging out with Latino bloggers LP (thanks for the room the first night), Duke, XicanoPwr, and Man Eegee was a pleasure and I sincerely hope that they all rise up to have a bigger voice and even some power in the emerging progressive majority. Visit them at The Sanctuary.

Yet, if the Latino outreach was better this year, the African-American outreach was still lacking. We have to do better in Pittsburgh.

The best panel I saw was Energize America partially organized by Jerome a Paris of European Tribune. It’s always great to see Jerome.

Amanda Terkel is as smart and charming in person as you would expect by reading her kick-ass blog, Think Progress.

And, of course, some bloggers are just as dull and obnoxious in real-life as you would expect from their online personas.