When are candidates going to realize that the Internets is going to make or break them in elections? In the past week, there have been two prime examples of what happens when one candidate gets it and the other doesn’t.
Now more than just a series of tubes, campaigns, and their candidates, are now YouTubed. (There. I just made it into a verb.) Every little foible and folly, once relegated to “Daily Show” segments, can now be parsed, watched over and over on the web, creating public-relations nightmares. Just look at what happened a few days ago when Virginia senator George Allen called a volunteer working for his opponent a “macaca,” a derogatory term. The volunteer, of course, was videotaping Allen’s speech, and found its way onto the Internet. (Haven’t seen it? Here you go.) Much hand-wringing by Allen soon followed.
In Joe Lieberman’s case, it wasn’t one video that lost him the Connecticut primary to challenger Ned Lamont. It was a series of them, all filmed by Lamont supporters and thrown up on YouTube. (Here are Slate’s top five.) As Clay Shirky said during an interview with On The Media, “this may be one of the last elections we see where there is clearly a net-savvy candidate going head to head with a non-net-savvy incumbent.”
Now we have, essentially, constituent-created content. People who videotape their cat flushing a toilet are now filming candidates doing the same to their campaigns. Now the trick will be for the net-savvy candidates to figure out how to harness all this unbridled creativity and work it into the well-oiled, on-message campaign strategy.