On November 14, 2008, Jose Antonio Vargas wrote an online column for the Washington Post entitled, “The YouTube Presidency.” In it, he quoted Steve Grove, head of news and politics at YouTube, who said, “The Obama team has written the playbook on how to use YouTube for political campaigns. Not only have they achieved impressive mass — uploading over 1800 videos that have been viewed over 110 million times total — but they’ve also used video to cultivate a sense of community amongst supporters.”
Two years later, it appears that some of the Republican tea party candidates for the U.S. Senate have read that playbook, while some of their Democratic opponents haven’t.
Tea Party Protest, Washington D.C., September 12, 2009, LOL
For example, Republican Senate candidates Linda McMahon in Connecticut, Rand Paul in Kentucky, and John Raese in West Virginia have all pledged to roll back or eliminate the minimum wage.
Sharron Angle in Nevada, Ken Buck in Colorado, and Pat Toomey in Pennsylvania have all talked about privatizing Social Security — or eliminating it altogether.
And 20 of this year’s Republican candidates for the Senate have been asked about climate change. Nineteen of them have said that the science is wrong.
You would think taking stances this extreme would have consequences. And according to Nate Silver of the Five Thirty Eight Blog at NYTimes.com, new polling in Colorado and West Virginia shows Buck and Raese are slipping.
Or, you might agree with Karl Rove, who recently told Der Spiegel, “If you look underneath the surface of the Tea Party movement…you will find that it is not sophisticated.”
However, a review of the YouTube channels for tea party candidates indicates that Paul and Angle may be running more sophisticated campaigns than the Democrats they are running against.
For example, in Kentucky, Rand Paul is the Republican candidate for the U.S. Senate and Attorney General Jack Conway is the Democratic candidate. RandPaul’s channel on YouTube has 435,556 total upload views, while JackConwayforSenate’s channel has 417,069.
In Nevada, Sharron Angle is the Republican challenger running against Harry Reid for the US Senate. SharonAngle’s channel on YouTube has 922,519 total upload views, while HarryReid2010’s channel has 714,454.
Two years ago, 44 percent of Obama voters had watched video online from a campaign or organization, compared to 39 percent of McCain voters, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project. And Aaron Smith, a research analyst with the Pew Internet Project, said, “Online Obama supporters were generally more engaged in the online political process than online McCain supporters.”
Today, the tea party movement seems more engaged in both the online as well as the offline political process.
Now, there is still a week to go before the election — it’s a tough economic environment and special interests as well as the candidates are spending tens of millions of dollars on TV. So, the political campaigns are being fought on several fronts.
But it appears that the Democrats no longer enjoy the advantage in using YouTube that they did in 2008. At least a couple tea party candidates have read Obama’s playbook.