By Maurice Pinzon
Hillary Clinton announced today she was forming a presidential exploratory committee, making it almost certain that the junior senator from New York and the wife of former President Bill Clinton will soon launch a full-throttle presidential campaign.
What was perhaps most unusual about Senator Clinton’s long-awaited announcement was that she chose to broadcast her intentions directly to people through her “Hillary for President” website. This follows on the heels of a similar approach used by U.S. Senator Barack Obama in his announcement to form a presidential exploratory committee earlier this month.
Senator Clinton’s video, however, had closer camera shots and, it seemed, a greater amount of camera shots, angles and transitions as she spoke into the camera. Candidates who choose to use the Internet as part of their strategy may now have to make sure their spoken words and their video productions complement each other. These media may become the unspoken equivalent of the visual imagery during the Nixon-Kennedy televised presidential debate.
Senator Obama’s video announcement demonstrated less movement, and the backdrop was more generic and out of focus as opposed to Senator Clinton’s backdrop, which appeared to have been her living room. In her video, Senator Clinton sat on a couch, with family photos and trees visible behind her. Her message practically shouted out “middle class.”
The websites themselves differ in their levels of sophistication, with Senator Clinton’s website providing more content and options. The Clinton website, for example, features “Take Action,” “Newsroom,” “Blog,” “Video” and “Contribute” information tabs. Senator Obama’s website, on the other hand, seemed to strive for simplicity by including his bio, videos, a form to “Join the Team” and a link to contribute money to his campaign.
New York City Council member Gale A Brewer, Chair of the Committee on Technology in Government, viewed Senator Clinton’s video and noted that the announcement concerned only the exploratory phase. “I’d hope it wouldn’t be done [this way] if you were really announcingî your intention to run for president,” she said.
At one point, while watching the video and talking to this reporter, Council member Brewer, who is somewhat of a technology policy wonk, said, “It’s kind of weird.”
“She’s just talking,” Ms. Brewer said, referring to Senator Clinton, as if she were astonished to have Senator Clinton right there on her computer screen.
Then Ms. Brewer went on to say, “I guess it’s just the current thing. And then the press covers it and it’s as if she had done a live press conference.”
Howard Dean was perhaps the first presidential candidate to organize and mobilize significant support using the Internet. But with video, podcasts, blogs and various chat forums now well established almost half a decade later, Ms. Clinton’s plan to hold ìlive online video chatsî later in the week appears to be an effort by the campaign to establish a direct connection with voters. At the same time, it gives the campaign an opportunity to bypass the usual swarm of reporters and cameras, even if it’s just until journalists catch up with her at her next news conference.
Ms. Clinton stated in her video, “I’m not just starting a campaign, though. I’m beginning a conversation – with you, with America.” She continued, “So let’s talk. Let’s chat. Let’s start a dialogue about your ideas and mine.”
According to Council member Brewer, “It’s a new version of using technology effectively to promote campaigns.”