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springstein.pngThe Republicans are waking up to the importance of blogs and video in what’s already being called the YouTube election.
“It is critical that Republicans not let Democrats continue the (Internet) edge, Committee Chairman Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev wrote. “They have had an edge on us.”
But the truth is that both parties have a lot to learn
On YouTube, upcoming Democratic and Republican debates, as well as the candidates’ own videos and the wild card – user generated videos — have the potential to elicit emotional responses from the candidates and frame the election in new ways. In the YouTube debates, questioners will be kids in t-shirts and jeans instead of stiff and pre-scripted MSM journos in suits.
Not only that, anyone can mashup the videos to create new ones, which are just as likely as the originals to achieve deep viral penetration of cyberspace.
So the National Republican Senatorial Campaign Committee for 2008 has issued a 39-page guidebook (link to excerpt here) encouraging extensive use of videos and Internet blogging. It also stresses the importance of using national and local blog sites to get their names and messages out rather than the mainstream media.
It begins:

“A successful research strategy should have the goal of gathering information that will then be used by the Communications Office against your opponent. With the new world of online campaigns and the blogging community, information that is gathered on an opponent can be used in many different ways to focus attention on an aspect of the opponent record that your opponent may be less than please is being highlighted.”

What’s missing? Plenty!
Successful use of video will need to have a sense of humor, of the community that’s watching it and creating their own, and of the sea change that online activism and putting the tools of content creation in everyone’s hands creates. Negative, nasty, mean, deceptive (insert your own adjective for mainstream political marketing and advertising) will backfire on the Internet.
The Candidates’ Real Challenge – Bullshit
If the videos candidates show on YouTube are bland or traditional political bullshit, they will be supplanted by user generated videos like the 1984 video of Hillary Clinton as Big Sister or others already online. Other videos featuring Clinton abound and a Google search will reveal videos of most candidates.
It’s highly unlikely that a Swift Boat ad or the other slimeball tactics that both parties have used in more traditional media will have the same kind of impact on the Internet. The times, they have already changed. And boy, are they ever interesting!
Bonus link – Bill Clinton: Al Gore could run if somebody fizzles. “He has the money.”