While the moneybags candidates in this fall’s statewide races (C’mon down, Kerry Healey and Chris Gabrieli!) pump millions into television advertising, some less well-heeled campaigns have turned to YouTube.com, the free lunch of video clips. The current most-popular site on the Web — slogan: “Broadcast Yourself” — has lately become a staging area for no-budget campaign promotion.
BAIT AND SWITCH: Do a search for "Bill Galvin on YouTube, and you get challenger John Bonifaz's videos
Log onto YouTube, search Andrea Silbert, and up pops “Andrea Silbert’s Massachusetts Democratic Convention Video, candidate for Lt. Governor of Massachusetts.” Better yet, plug in Deval Patrick and you get 15 videos, ranging from “Deval Patrick’s Convention Speech” to “Deval Patrick on Who You Are.”
“It’s really just another viewing environment for videos of Deval,” Charles Steel Fisher, new-media director for the Patrick Campaign, wrote in an e-mail. “Deval wants this campaign to be about more than 30 second TV ads.”
As for the response they’ve gotten, “Several of the videos have had more than 100 viewings,” Fisher wrote. “You always wish you’d get higher responses, but it is a respectable start. And it is just one of many outreach programs we have using video on the Web.”
But the real video savant this election year is John Bonifaz, the voting-rights advocate who’s challenging Secretary of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin in the Democratic primary.
“YouTube is another step forward in the power of the Internet,” said Bonifaz campaign manager Juan Martinez. “It’s a great way to reach out to voters and to spread information, to get people more politically active and educate people about politics in general.”
And about John Bonifaz in particular — even when YouTubers are looking for information about his opponent. If you search for Bill Galvin, the site displays two videos about … wait for it … John Bonifaz.
“I’m not sure I’d characterize it as guerrilla marketing,” Martinez said. “It’s more a concerted effort to spread our message virally.”
Sort of a public service, eh? “That’s our opponent in the race,” Martinez responded. “It’s a good way to expand on educating people about Bill Galvin.” That includes a YouTube installment of Bonifaz’s “Where’s Galvin?” series, which chronicles the challenger’s on-camera attempts to invite the incumbent to debate.
On the topic of “Where’s Galvin” videos, Martinez vigorously disputes a recent Boston Herald item about one of them on Bonifaz’s Web site.
The Herald reported: “In one clip, Salem Democratic Committee member Janet Crane goes to Galvin’s State House office July 19 to demand that he debate Bonifaz, only to come out complaining that Galvin wasn’t there. But the reason Galvin was absent that day is because he was making funeral arrangements for his mother, who died the previous day.”
Bonifaz, the Herald item said, “has callously kept the clip on his site.” But Martinez countered that as soon as the campaign learned that Galvin was absent because his mother had died, “we pulled the video out of respect to him and his family. All they had to do was look at the website to see that it wasn’t up there Sunday.”
Herald reporter Dave Wedge said, “I don’t know if it was up the day of publication, but the day I wrote the piece, Thursday, I believe it was still up.” Beyond that, Wedge said, “the point was they didn’t bother to check why Galvin wasn’t there. Bill Galvin has a reputation for being one of the hardest-working guys on Beacon Hill. It looks like the Bonifaz campaign didn’t do their homework for this.”
Yeah, that’s kind of going around.
Back to the YouTubers (would they be Web potatoes?). Martinez says despite low viewing numbers, the Bonifaz campaign plans to continue posting videos. “Everyone knows about YouTube. It’s a good way to reach out to voters.”
“I’m not sure what YouTube is,” said Galvin campaign spokeswoman Kara Boniface, who gave as her title “I work for the committee.”
When asked for her reaction to Bonifaz’s YouTube poaching, Boniface, whose attitude could best be described as slightly hyper-defensive, said, “I’m not necessarily sure I do have a reaction.” Hey, that’s okay — this is America.
But Boniface did add, “I guess that’s just [Bonifaz’s] way of getting his name out there.” Beyond that, she said, “I have no further comments about this.”
Yes, but do you have any videos?
Sing it Mitt feeling
Of course, no YouTube ’06 survey would be complete without checking outgoing governor Mitt Romney’s representation. It consists of four videos, none of which was posted by him: three tar-baby news clips about Romney’s Uncle Remus–impaired speech in Iowa last month, and a priceless video from Deb Manischewitz that features her end-of-the-wedding-reception can’t-stop-looking performance of “Wedding Bell Blues,” Massachusetts gay-marriage style.
Sample lyrics: “I loathe you so / you pious twit / your righteous religion rules the law — that’s not allowed! / (Oh, but you’re never gonna steal my wedding vows).”
Well, worth the price of admission ($0).
John Carroll is a mass-communication professor at Boston University and a correspondent for WGBH-TV’s “Beat the Press.” He can be reached email@example.com.
On the Web
John Bonifaz's "Where's Galvin?" page: //www.johnbonifaz.com/wheresgalvin