CAMBRIDGE, Mass. -- The riveting "Big Sister" YouTube ad attacking Hillary Rodham Clinton -- produced by an anonymous creator to benefit Barack Obama -- launches a new chapter in presidential campaigning.
"This will be the political phenomena of 2008," said Democratic consultant Steve Jarding.
Jarding is not working for any of the Democratic White House hopefuls -- but witnessed the first demonstration of YouTube political power last November while advising Jim Webb in his come-from-behind win to claim a Senate seat. Webb landed a giant break when his rival, now former Sen. George Allen (R-Va.), was caught on tape -- uploaded to YouTube -- calling a Webb staffer a "macaca."
The Hillary spot is a produced piece -- a takeoff on George Orwell's "Big Brother" 1984 theme used in an Apple ad -- complete with zombies rescued by a woman running in a tank top with the Obama logo who smashes a screen where Hillary is droning on. The graphic at the end directs traffic to Obama's presidential campaign Web address.
Obama said on CNN's "Larry King Live" on Monday night that "people generate all kinds of stuff" on the Internet. "In some ways, it's the democratization of the campaign process, but it's not something that we had anything to do with or were aware of, and that frankly, given what it looks like, we don't have the technical capacity to create something like this."
The spot rocketed over to mainstream media after Matt Drudge splashed on his megasite an article about the ad by San Francisco Chronicle political writer Carla Marinucci.
YouTube -- and other Internet sites where you can post your own videos -- offers a simple, fast and free outlet for do-it-yourself political admakers.
"It's clear it will have an impact. We just don't know how big," Jarding said. He said, "I don't think for a minute that Obama did it," because the negative politics-as-usual hit job would run too counter to the higher road Obama is trying to take.
Campaigns are hooking up with YouTube, too -- but with content under their control. All the major presidential camps have significant Internet operations.
"There is a new kind of media, which YouTube is an important part of, that allows for more and more people to engage and learn more about candidates and politics in general. "We have done our best to use this new technology to reach as many voters as effectively as possible," Obama spokesman Bill Burton said.
Kevin Madden, spokesman for former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a GOP hopeful, said, "Every campaign has to have a new media plan to combat this" and keep their "market share" focused on what the campaign wants to talk about.
Clinton senior strategist Mark Penn said it's clear that ability to videocast on YouTube is a doubled-edged sword for 2008 contenders. "We don't know yet what role this will play."
Nick Baldick, John Edwards' campaign manager, said the YouTube debut in the 2006 congressional contests was just the start. It will be more pronounced in 2008.
"It will have an impact, and every campaign will have to deal with it," he said.