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Politicians using video to talk directly 
to "You" 

[PoliticsWatch updated 5:40 p.m., January 22, 2007]

Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama took to the Web this week.

OTTAWA  — Over the past seven days three serious contenders for the White House took the first major step to enter the presidential race.   

But not one of them held a press conference to announce their historic decisions.  

Instead the three contenders -- Senators Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama and New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson -- all made their announcements to launch exploratory committees via videos posted on their Web sites and later on YouTube. 

It appears that the days of a presidential hopeful making the announcement on the steps outside his hometown elementary school while a large pack of reporters and camera crews capture the moment will soon be a thing of the past. 

All three Democratic candidates who entered the race this week opted instead to use motion picture quality videos which make them appear presidential. 

And to make things even better, there were no pesky reporters around to ask them embarrassing questions that could cloud their big day. 

The first major candidate to jump into the race was John Edwards who held a more traditional campaign photo-op launch surrounded by Hurricane Katrina victims in New Orleans.  

But on Tuesday, Obama raised the bar. 

Obama's campaign posted a video message on the candidate's Web site and it quickly made its way onto YouTube. 

Not only did Obama use the video to control the message, he made it clear that the video itself was the message and he was appealing directly to voters without the media. 

"I believe in you," said Obama, who has been crossing the country and meeting people over the past few months. "And that's why I wanted to tell you first that I'll be filing papers today to create a presidential exploratory committee."

So Obama was telling the voter's first, not the media. Ordinary people were getting the big scoop, not the White House Press gang. The irony, of course, is most voters probably found out about Obama's video through the media.  

On Saturday morning, Clinton tried to out do Obama by announcing her exploratory committee bid via a video posted on her Website.  

"I'm in," Clinton's site declared. 

Clinton's video was even better than Obama's production quality wise with the camera slowly moving and a wide shot and close up.  

In addition, Clinton made the announcement sitting on a sofa in a living room that looked like it could be on the cover of Better Homes and Gardens. 

Clinton appeared more like someone who was launching an afternoon talk show than a presidential bid. 

And the special guest on that talk show, of course, would be the voter. 

"I'm not just starting a campaign though," Clinton explained. "I'm beginning a conversation with you." 

"So let's talk. Let's chat. Let's start a dialogue about your ideas and mine because the conversation in Washington has been just a little one-sided lately, don't you think. And we can all see how well that works."

Again Clinton, who has lived in Washington for the better part of the last 15 years, used language similar to Obama's to appear like a Washington outsider. 

Washington doesn't have the answers to all the problems America is facing. You, the voter, do, according to Clinton. 

And to prove it, Clinton is holding a series of live video Web chats this week on her Website allowing voters to ask her questions live, making the phone-in portion of Larry King Live obsolete. The first Web cast begins at 7 p.m. ET on Monday. 

On Sunday, New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson became the third candidate to announce his bid via Web video

However, Richardson, unlike the other two Dems, didn't dedicate his video to you the voter, but rather gave a straightforward pitch for why he is qualified to be president. 

Richardson seemed to have confused YouTube with MeTube. 

The New Mexico governor won't be hold Web chats or having a dialogue. 

Why? 

"I believe these serious times demand serious people who have real world experience in solving the challenges we face," he said. 

While he may not want to have a chat with you, Richardson does have a permanent YouTube presence. On Sunday his campaign created a page on YouTube called Richardson4President, where the campaign has posted his launch speech and other existing YouTube videos featuring Richardson.  

So in the early days of the 2008 presidential election, it appears that technology such as Web video and YouTube will play a major role and could permanently change the way candidates get their message out.  

While the three Dems successfully bipassed the media to launch their bid the media wasn't sulking. In fact, the use of the Web made the campaign launches receive even greater exposure due to the novelty of it all. 

"The already-underway 2008 presidential campaign is likely to be remembered as the point where Web video became central to the communications strategy of every serious presidential candidate," the Washington Post concluded in a story on Monday. 

And the trend will likely spill over to Canada in the near future. 

YouTube played a minor, but growing, role in the Liberal leadership campaign. 

And Prime Minister Stephen Harper never misses an opportunity to bypass the Ottawa Press Gallery, often making major policy announcements in various cities outside the capital or appealing directly to voters.  

So it's not surprising that last month the PMO created a page on YouTube

The page is in its infancy with only French and English versions of the PM's Christmas and New Year's messages posted. 

"Canada's New Government is committed to communicating with Canadians at every opportunity we have," Sandra Buckler, director of communications for the prime minister, told PoliticsWatch. 

"YouTube provides a great opportunity for Canadians to access and share
messages directly from the prime minister - encouraging participation in
our democracy." 

:  Related Links

> Why YouTube should make politicians nervous

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