Warner forgoes the stump for YouTube
Today former Governor Mark Warner (D) ended nearly a year of speculation about his political future and revealed that he will run for Virginia's seat in the U.S. Senate soon to be vacated by five-term veteran John Warner (R) (no relation). Warner's announcement was a tad anticlimactic, after the New York Times and the Washington Post already had the story in this morning's papers, but the means by which he threw his hat into the ring is worth noting. Instead of a big pep rally with balloons and a rally-the-troops speech, Warner did what thousands of bloggers do every day: he sat down, spoke into a camera, and uploaded it onto YouTube.
According to UVA professor and political pundit Larry Sabato, that's partially because there's already a big campaign under way for control of the General Assembly. "Some of the legislative candidates have been concerned that Warner and even the candidates running for governor in 2009 would step on them and their fundraising," he says.
Warner isn't the first candidate to launch his or her campaign over the Internet. Earlier this month, former Senator Fred Thompson (R-TN) put a 15-minute video online to announce his candidacy for president the second after he told Jay Leno the same thing on the Tonight Show. In February, comedian and radio personality Al Franken took to the web to proclaim his run for a U.S. Senate seat in Minnesota. In January, Senator Hillary Clinton (D-NY) started her White House run with an Internet video in which she declared "I'm in," while sitting on a softly-lit couch.
Sabato says the advantage of a folksy webcast as opposed to a barnstorming stump speech is message control. "There's no opportunity for reporters to ask questions, and they have to use exactly what you say, especially in TV where they need visuals," he says. "It's a great way to package a candidate."
However, just as quickly as Gov. Warner entered the fray, Republicans were ready to pounce. Today the National Republican Senatorial Committee launched DontMarkWarner.com, featuring a catchy music video about Warner's record on taxes.
Sabato says this is only the beginning. "Everybody's inboxes were filled with negative messages about Mark Warner today," he says. "One Republican consultant told me, 'We're going to take half a point off every day.' They won't do that, but they realize that if they don't attack hard, Mark Warner will win easily."