Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 25, 2007

It’s hard to believe that Election ’08 is well under way ó and it’s hard to believe how the political process is changing. Thanks to the Internet ó You Tube in particular ó voters have easier access than ever to their candidates.
The youngest voters in the ’08 election are an interesting group. They have more access to more information than any other previous generation. They’re savvy.
Consider these facts about the class of 2012, who are preparing to enter college this fall. An annual list is prepared by Beloit College in Wisconsin.
– The Soviet Union has never existed and therefore is about as scary as the student union.
– They have known only two presidents.
– There has always been only one Germany.
– They are wireless, yet always connected.
– A stained blue dress is as famous to their generation as a third-rate burglary was to their parents’.
– “Google” has always been a verb.
A local 19-year-old will return to N.C. State this fall as a sophomore political science major. He can tell you anything you’d like to know about all the candidates. After the Democratic primary is over, he’ll turn his attention to Republican candidates as well.
He gets his information from the candidates’ Web sites, and is in the process of reading hard-cover books of their biographies. He watches “The Daily Show” and “The Colbert Report,” as well as network newscasts. He goes to YouTube some, not much. He wants to be as informed as possible, and make the best decision for him.
YouTube is becoming more prevalent on the political scene, having co-hosted a debate Monday night with CNN.
It’s an interesting ó and perhaps advantageous ó source for voters. Thanks to the unblinking eye of ever-present cameras, cellphone cameras and the like, candidates are never “off the record” or out of the public eye.
YouTube will broadcast every gotcha moment ó the slip by former Virginia Sen. George Allen in 2006 comes immediately to mind. “Welcome to Macaca,” he said to a campaign aide.
It was a racial slur.
He lost.
Those 15 minutes have passed and another candidate is sure to take his place on the hotseat in the general election. (John Edwards’ haircut video would be a front runner.)
CNN has called it “the YouTube-ification of politics.”
On Tuesday morning, the New York Times reported that while this week’s debate was in a decidedly different and novel format ó questions were submitted via videos ó the candidates were the same.
“The change only went so far,” the Times reported. “Candidates frequently lapsed into their talking points, and there was little actual debate among them.”
Maybe. But this brave new world of YouTube presents an intriguing platform for candidates who especially want votes from that coveted 18-24 age group.
More than ever, it underscores the fact that candidates must always be “on,” and always put their best foot forward ó rather than in their mouth.