New York Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton's (D) team proved once again this week that it intends to lead the charge in revolutionizing the way campaigns use the media.
With another less-than-conventional undertaking, she's skirting the once-traditional route of blanketing the airwaves to ensure that every voter with a radio or TV set gets her message. This week's method? Mailing a DVD to Iowa voters that details her plans to end the war in Iraq.
Although the press is still awaiting the Democratic front-runner's official paid advertising TV debut, Clinton's communications operation has thrown political reporters plenty of red meat. She employs a team committed to making good on pre-2008 predictions about media strategy: in particular, that this cycle would feature new media ideas, like narrowcasting, while pulling back on old-guard forms of advertising, like broadcasting.
The Clinton effort is generating plenty of new media, from the new DVD to the HillCam feature intended to document spontaneous moments on the trail and the , with its "Sopranos"-themed YouTube video unveiling the top choice. Meanwhile, the candidates concentrating on paid media have stuck largely to the broadcasting route, including former North Carolina Sen. John Edwards (D), Illinois Sen. Barack Obama (D), Connecticut Sen. Christopher Dodd (D), New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson (D), former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R), former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani (R) and former Wisconsin Gov. Tommy Thompson (R).
The unconventional productions have allowed Clinton to introduce her personality and her platform to voters outside of expensive 30-second snapshots that only allow for quick sound bites. The "Sopranos" spoof, for example, was credited with showing off Clinton's softer side.
With this week's DVD, she presents a more thorough explanation of her plan for Iraq. The DVD features former presidential candidate and Iowa Gov. Tom Vilsack (D), who is likely to carry some weight with voters in his home state; former Ambassador Joseph Wilson, who is popular with Democrats opposed to the war; and an "anti-war caucus-goer," whose presence in the video could be a particular boost to Clinton given Edwards' antiwar message and his popularity in Iowa.
Clearly conveying the message that Clinton will not exit the Iowa caucuses, as one of her advisers suggested, much of the video shows Iowa voters engaging Clinton on her Iraq strategy around the dinner table -- in the kind of small-group interaction that many caucus-goers want to see return.
She lays out her three-point plan for withdrawal before fielding more questions. First, Clinton states that the U.S. military "can't police" urban combat in Iraq and it shouldn't be mired in another country's civil war. Step two is to "make it very clear to the Iraqis that unless they do the political work, they are going to be on their own." Third, she concludes, "We've got to get back to diplomacy," because "diplomacy has been a bad word" during the Bush administration.