Patrick Hynes

YouTube is the hottest thing in American politics today. Just ask former Virginia Senator George Allen (emphasis on former). On the morning of August 15th, 2006 very few Americans had ever heard the quasi-word “macaca” before. By the end of the week, the word had come to encapsulate George Allen’s putative view of race relations in America, in an unflattering light, to be sure. All because Allen referred to one of his opponent’s staff members as “Macaca or whatever his name is,” and “Macaca” in turn uploaded the damning video onto YouTube. Allen’s campaign never recovered.

“Whether Republicans are ready for it or not, the website which will have the biggest impact on a candidate’s political life is YouTube,” says David All, a Republican modern media strategist in Washington, DC. “Candidates throughout the country are no longer squaring off against their opponents’ media firm, they also face their opponents’ tech-savvy, modern volunteer operation which is armed with cost-effective camcorders, free video editing software, high-speed internet connections, and a gnarly laptop to make the magic happen.”

But YouTube isn’t just a tool to play gotcha politics. Two presidential aspirants have recently used YouTube to say “I was wrong” to prospective supporters in the blogosphere.

Former Sen. John Edwards wants to be the Democratic presidential nominee in 2008. The only problem in that Edwards voted to authorize President Bush to invade Iraq. And that’s a no-no in Democratic politics. Just ask Sen. Joe Lieberman, another frequent guest star on YouTube’s political showcase.

So Team Edwards is only too happy to direct prospective supporters to this video on YouTube in which the former North Carolina Senator says, “I want to say something personal to all of you. … I voted for this war. I was wrong. I should not have voted for this war. I take responsibility for that.”

The liberal crowd (Edwards said this at a Ned Lamont rally) erupted in cheers at Edwards’s mea culpa and Edwards is today the early frontrunner among Iowa caucus-goers.

Perhaps hoping to emulate Edwards’s successful turnaround, former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney this week took to the YouTube airwaves to admit he was wrong for espousing liberal positions on social issues in his 1994 campaign for U.S. Senate against Sen. Ted Kennedy.

Patrick Hynes

Patrick Hynes is the president of New Media Strategics, a blog relations consultancy. He is the proprietor of Ankle Biting Pundits and the author of In Defense of the Religious Right (Nelson Current).

Be the first to read Patrick Hynes' column. Sign up today and receive delivered each morning to your inbox.