The candidates deliver their spiel at clam bakes, town halls, kitchen tables, hair salons, street corners. They swing by MaryAnn's Diner in Derry and Geno's Chowder and Sandwich Shop in Portsmouth. They hop-scotch from Dixville Notch to Dartmouth to Danville. Once upon a time, their audience was made up of the local, likely voter in the first-in-the-nation primary. In 2008, the audience is universal. Thanks to the proliferation of online videos and a 24/7 hustle from professional and citizen journalists, the candidates are speaking to the world. The result is the New Hampshire Primary has an extended reach and influence, said Peter Kowalski, a researcher at KDPaine & Partners in Berlin, NH Measures of Success. The firm, led by Katie Paine, is tracking YouTube videos about the presidential candidates in New Hampshire. The researchers are viewing all the videos and gauging whether there is a correlation to polls, the candidates' media presence and their time in the state. "Here we have another measure of activity," Kowalski said. "It's another way, in addition to the mainstream media, to see the candidates." It's fascinating, he said, to see whether online buzz about a candidate translates into support. Stats are collected seven days after a video is posted. The most watched video? That of 70-year-old John McCain calling a local high school student a "little jerk" when the student asked him a question related to his age. But unlike mainstream press of the incident, it went over well online, Kowalski said.
Does the political mojo celebrated or ridiculed on YouTube, which almost shuns orthodoxy, have a real-world implication? KDPaine & Partners has found that Ron Paul is leading among Republicans and Barack Obama is leading among Democrats. That's according to the number of videos and the number of viewings. Mike Huckabee's online presence is surging, just as he is in the polls. Perhaps it's only a matter of time until we hear a candidate utter a variation of the campaign cliche: The only YouTube that counts is on Election Day.