WASHINGTON — Douglas Bailey, a pioneering political consultant who had a key role in crafting Gerald Ford’s message in the 1976 presidential campaign and who later helped launch the first electronically distributed digest of national political news, died June 10 at his home in Arlington, Va. He was 79.
His daughter, Kate, said he died early Monday in his sleep. The cause of death was not immediately known, but colleagues said Mr. Bailey had been treated last year for lymphoma.
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 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 across the nation.
‘‘The Hotline was the first political website,’’ the current editor, Reid Wilson, said Tuesday. ‘‘It was the first place that aggregated political news from outside the Beltway.’’
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.
Mr. Bailey leaves his wife since 1965, Patricia Price Bailey; two children, Edward and Kate; a brother; and a grandson.