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Videos rule in campaigns Candidates rely on videos for direct appeals to voters.


Technology is playing a crucial role in the early campaign for the White House -- and in a way easily missed by news media. It is the political video.

The videos, usually five to 15 minutes long, are extended commercials sent directly to people's homes, or used for fund-raising, organizing and recruiting potential volunteers.

They illustrate how traditional campaigning, which centered on the candidates stumping the nation, is becoming a smaller part of presidential politics.

Two Democrats -- Arkansas Gov. Bill Clinton and Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin -- even staged their announcement speeches not merely for the nightly news, but as centerpieces for videos.

"We've got thousands [of videos] out there now," says Frank Greer, Clinton's media consultant. "With the short campaign we are in, they are more important this year than ever." Candidates have not had two years to tromp through New Hampshire meeting voters before the Feb. 18 primary, as they have in the past. The tapes are also cheap to produce, about $1 each.

The most telling use of video so far came in Clinton's victory in the December Florida straw poll, which helped make him the nominal Democratic front-runner, and, in turn, the leader in fund raising.

To win that straw poll, Clinton's campaign sent a detailed 16-minute video to all 2,000 delegates to the Florida convention. The 1,000 who were undecided or leaning toward Clinton got extra attention: Messengers delivered a video to their homes, along with a letter from the candidate. Clinton garnered 54 percent of the ballots.

Now he is using it in New Hampshire and to campaign in absentia in Washington state, where he hopes to surprise people in the March 3 caucuses.

Before the Florida straw poll, Harkin took the early lead in fund-raising, in part on the strength of his video, which he showed at more than 1,100 parties.

Sen. Bob Kerrey of Nebraska even uses his video in focus groups to test what prospective voters think of him.

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