Brace yourself for the 2008 You-Tube election. When it comes to presidential campaigns, many Americans make up their minds about candidates not based on the issues, but rather based on "low information" signals about the candidate's personal narrative and character. For example, in 2004, the Bush campaign stuck to a very successful internal theme in plotting external message strategy: Who would you rather have a beer with, Bush or Kerry?
Not only is the candidate's perceived likeability important, so is their appearance of competence in handling the many dynamics and unexpected turns of the campaign trail. With the growth in popularity of You-Tube, much like George Allen's now infamous Macaca moment, any campaign gaffe captured on video will be archived and linked to gleefully by thousands of bloggers. Word-of-mouth buzz will direct large audiences to YouTube where they will be able to catch the gaffe that they might have missed live on TV.
Consider the clip above. At a "Let the Conversation Begin" campaign rally in Iowa, Hillary Clinton was captured on MSNBC singing rather awkwardly the national anthem. In a NYTimes article by Patrick Healy reporting on the campaign stop, the MSNBC moment and its immediate appearance on YouTube is mentioned. The clip is also linked to by the immensely popular Drudge Report. The mainstream print exposure in the Sunday Times and the Drudge attention has guided swarms of viewers to the archived segment. As of 2pm EST, the clip stands as the most popular video of the day on You-Tube and has been watched by roughly 300,000 Web surfers.