Television has long exerted a stranglehold over American politics. Think of 'Daisy', an infamous TV advertisement used by the Democratic Party's Lyndon Johnson during the 1964 presidential election campaign. The ad shows a little girl counting a daisy's petals. The camera zooms in until her dark pupils fill the screen. When the countdown reaches zero, the blackness is replaced by the flash and a mushroom cloud from a nuclear explosion. Johnson's voice-over then declares: 'These are the stakes!' - implying that Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater could lead the US to nuclear war. Although shown just once, the ad was deemed a factor in destroying Goldwater's chances to serve in the White House.
The role of televisual media as a political force changed little until the 2004 US election, when blogs - serving as digital citizen chronicles - rose to the fore. It was in these blogs that people first speculated on President George W. Bush's use of a listening device to get coaching during his debates with Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry.
Video-sharing website YouTube is generating intense political buzz this time around. Campaign videos from a spectrum of sources are being shown on YouTube and grabbing so much attention that analysts have started calling the 2008 US presidential contest 'the YouTube election'.
New-media public relations expert Albert Maruggi, a former Republican National Committee press secretary, says exposure on YouTube will make US presidential candidates more 'programmed', thwarting America's desire for 'a candid candidate'. Maruggi says the battle to dominate YouTube will be dirty. 'I think the candidate who wins the YouTube wars is the one who can mobilise the most cameras and creative editors,' he says.
Savour the following bunch of clips, which are all very different to the old Daisy ad. Most are playful, ridiculous even, and keep pace with YouTube's lightweight, short-attention-span vibe.
Hot For Hillary (www.youtube.com/watch?v=-Sudw4ghVe8)
Shtick: a pro-Hillary Clinton, ex-American Idol contestant poses as a Hillary-obsessed school-teacher
and sings of her infatuation with the former US first lady. It is just as entertaining as the self-mocking Sopranos spoof starring the Clintons.
Sample line: 'I know you're not gay. But I'm hoping for bilingual.'
John Edwards - Feeling Pretty (www.youtube.com/watch?v=2AE847UXu3Q)
Shtick: this real-life footage of former US senator Edwards primping for two minutes gains satirical strength from the overlay of the West Side Story score I Feel Pretty. Excruciatingly funny, the clip has raised allegations that Edwards cares more about his hair than his main cause: the poor.
Sample line: 'It's alarming how charming I feel.'
Debate '08: Obama Girl vs Giuliani Girl (www.youtube.com/watch?v=ekSxxlj6rGE)
Shtick: a dance-off between supporters of US senator Barack Obama and former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani. It's sexy and clever, if tacky. Likely to make both contenders look fractionally cooler.
Sample line: 'Giuliani Girl, just stop your fussin'. At least Obama didn't marry his cousin.'