Wednesday, October 19, 2011

YouTube clicks with Republican presidential candidates

When Rick Perry launched an attack of Mitt Romney’s health care plan this week, he didn’t call a news conference, give a big speech or take to the airwaves.

Perry’s campaign turned instead to YouTube, posting a Web video that caught media attention and prompted Romney’s campaign to quickly respond.

Six decades after Richard Nixon’s famous “Checkers speech” propelled television to a central role in political campaigns, Web video could be poised for a similar breakout in 2012.

Michael Cheney, a senior fellow in government and public affairs at the University of Illinois at Springfield, compared the potential effect to Nixon’s speech, when the flagging vice presidential candidate used an emotional appeal to bypass the press. Nixon denied misusing campaign funds and included a heart-tugging reference to a dog named Checkers given to his family.

By turning to television, Nixon was able to take his message over the heads of the press directly to voters. The tactic worked: His speech drew an outpouring of support and compelled the GOP to keep him on the presidential ticket.

“More and more, candidates are using YouTube and the Web to circumvent the normal gatekeeper functions of reporters and the media,” said Cheney, who studies politics and the Web.

Cheney's comments were featured in an October 13, 2011, article in The Dallas Morning News.