How Web videos dismantled Joe Lieberman.

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Aug. 7 2006 1:17 PM

Lamont TV

How Web videos dismantled Joe Lieberman.

The Lieberman-Lamont race will be the most overread political battle of this cycle. But why wait for the outcome to overread the results? Regardless of who wins the election Tuesday, Lamont's forces have proved one lesson of campaigns in the digital age: Content is king. Throughout the contest, the challenger's supporters produced and circulated a steady stream of videos that were witty, powerful, and in a way became the fulcrum of the campaign.

Political strategists in both parties have tried to find ways to use technology to keep voters engaged in campaigns through long stretches, but their efforts to date have been pretty lame. They put a few balloons on a Web site and allow people to send form letters to the editor, buy Democracy Bonds, and post on a sterile message board. The Lamont forces have now shown the better way. (Lieberman's supporters did not seem to participate in any meaningful way in this new medium.) The Lamont videos were far more effective than tendentious blog posts, and they gave energetic supporters an outlet for their energies (a person can only pound so many yard signs). What's more, the videos offered a regular dose of entertainment to supporters who were interested but not obsessed.

John Dickerson John Dickerson

John Dickerson is Slate's chief political correspondent and author of On Her Trail. Read his series on the presidency and on risk. Follow him on Twitter.

Here are five of the best Lamont videos:

Screengrab from YouTube.

1. Lobbyists for Lieberman. In the final days of the race, the Lieberman campaign sent supporters to disrupt Lamont events. This is the time-honored tactic of the desperate. It looks downright pathetic when it's captured on tape. One of Lieberman's mischief-makers was Washington lobbyist Richard Goodstein, who interrupted a Lamont speech at a local restaurant and then was confronted by a Lamont supporter. A case of Red Bull couldn't have given the Lamont activists more of a boost.

Screengrab from ctbob.blogspot.com.

2. You're Always on, Senator. All candidates know what it's like to dodge the nutty voter in the parking lot after a speech. Now that voter has a camera. Lieberman was followed everywhere, and invariably something happened that amused them. When Lieberman boasted of union support, the Lamont supporters had video telling their own story. Every candidate from now on has to worry that their words to the fellow with the stringy hair at the Waffle House will be seen around the world.

Lieberman ad still.

3. Lamont the Bear Cub. Democratic activists accused Lieberman of being imperious and out of touch, and Lieberman produced a Web commercial that proved the point. When Lieberman tried to paint his opponent as a slight, insignificant puppet of Connecticut's Republican former Gov. and Sen. Lowell Weicker, his ad became a rousing call to arms for the Lamont campaign. All campaigns do stupid things. In the past, the stupidity faded from memory. Not anymore.

Screengrab from UTube.

4. Colbert on Call. Would you rather read screen after screen of tedious blog posts about Joe Lieberman, or would you rather laugh at Joe Lieberman? Stephen Colbert did several commentaries on the race, all of them favorable to Lamont. No one had to set their TiVo. The pieces were on YouTube the next day and every day thereafter.

Bush kissing Lieberman.

5. The Longest Kiss. Lamont supporters were a little obsessive about the kiss George Bush planted on Joe Lieberman's cheek, but they were so creative that their videos about it kept the image alive in entertaining ways each week. The mainstream media could only obsess over an iconic moment like Howard Dean's scream for a day or so, but Lamont supporters could take an iconic moment and recycle it again and again and again.