The Internet and YouTube have changed the face of politics

The 'Yes, we can' video gets a million hits a day, with no cost to the Obama campaign

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by L. IAN MacDONALD
The Gazette, Wednesday, February 13, 2008

It was just a four-minute riff at the end of Barack Obama's concession speech on Jan. 8, the night he lost the New Hampshire primary to Hillary Clinton.

Watching the speech on television, the Grammy-winning hip-hop star will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas later told ABC News he found it "inspiring about making change in America."

He got some musical friends together in a studio and turned Obama's words into a rap-style recitation, with clips of the speech laid over an ensemble cast recording that's quite reminiscent of We Are the World.

The resulting video, Yes, We Can, is astonishingly powerful on its own terms, but equally attests to the influence of new media platforms such as You Tube.

And Obama, in his own words, has transformed a concession speech into a victory refrain: "It was a creed written into the founding documents that declared the destiny of the nation. Yes, we can. It was whispered by slaves and abolitionists as they blazed a trail toward freedom. Yes, we can; yes, we can... It was the call of workers who organized, women who reached for ballots. It was a president who chose the moon as our new frontier, and a King who took us to the mountaintop and pointed the way to justice and equality. Yes, we can."

And so on. There's more than eloquence here. There's authenticity, and an inspirational thread of history. It's a candidate in his own voice and cadence, drawing on the American experience, to make his own history.

In the two weeks since its release, the video has received a million viewings a day on You Tube, a platform that didn't even exist in the last presidential cycle in 2004. It has also received huge earned media coverage, which is to say free coverage on mainstream media, now known as MSM - television, radio and newspapers.

Cost to the Obama campaign? Zero.

What can the Clinton campaign do it about it? Nothing.

It's just one more example of how Hillary Clinton and her campaign appear to be stuck in another time, so 90s, while Obama is completely of the new century.

Her campaign, which expected to close the deal for the Democratic nomination on Super Tuesday expects such heavy going in the remainder of February that it has already moved to the March 4 states of Texas and Ohio, which she now desperately needs to win by significant margins to slow Obama's surging momentum.

While she won the big coastal states on Super Tuesday - New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and California - he won 13 states to her nine, and tied her in the popular vote across the U.S. And then he ran the table on the weekend, winning caucuses in Washington, Nebraska and Maine, and as well as the Louisiana primary, all by blowout numbers of at least 20 points. Of the four weekend states, only in Louisiana did the African American vote provide Obama's margin of victory.

The black vote was much more significant in yesterday's three Potomac primaries in Maryland, Washington D.C., and Virginia. He has been winning about 80 per cent of the black vote in earlier primaries, and that's two-thirds of the voters in the U.S. capital.

Amid all this comes a shakeup in the Clinton high command, with her campaign manager, her former White House scheduler Patti Solis Doyle, being replaced by her former chief of staff, Maggie Williams. This is strictly inside baseball stuff, but such a purge is always of a sign of a campaign struggling to re-energize and reframe its message.

And then there's the money. There's always the money. The Clinton campaign, which like Obama's, had raised more than $100 million by the end of 2007, was essentially broke at the end of January, to the point that she had to lend it $5 million to stay on the air through Super Tuesday, raising questions about whether it was her money or her husband's.

Meanwhile, Obama continues to cruise with millions of free hits on You Tube. Welcome to the new universe of politics.

 
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