Race for the White House Hits the Big Screen

The Internet will not be the sole province of liberals this fall. Four years ago, the Liberty Film Festival made its debut to highlight conservatives' films. "A lot of people in the last 10, 20 years feel they've been denied work, with themes that were pro-military or had old-fashioned values," Govindini Murty, the festival's artistic director, told ABC News. "In 2004, the real catalysts were Michael Moore and Mel Gibson," the latter because conservatives felt he was unfairly attacked.

The first festival featured 20 films and 3,000 people turned up, with "people saying, 'This is our Woodstock,'" said Murty. "Each year, we saw our submissions doubling." This year, Liberty's Internet presence is increasing, with trailers, shorts, features, streamlining, DVD sales and film reviews from conservative critics.

Also working the clicks will be Floyd Brown, who was behind the Willie Horton ad of 1988 that helped tank Michael Dukakis' campaign. The current election, Brown told ABC News, "is a battle that will be won or lost on the Internet. The day when political consultants had a monopoly on the message is over."

So Brown, using his Web site, ExposeObama.com, is launching a contest "to use social media to have people generate their own ads."

Perhaps it will attract the 20-somethings who this past spring took a workshop sponsored by the G.I. Film Festival and the Leadership Institute, whose mission is "to identify, train and place conservatives in politics, government and the media."

"The students attending the class were tired of the Michael Moore documentaries," said multimedia training director Eric Slee.

Conservatives warn that these first forays into filmmaking may not be as polished and professional as those from the left. Matt Lewis, a blogger for TownHall.com (the right's Huffington Post), told ABC News, "The nascent version is going to be bad. When Christian rock first started, it was not cool at all, very lame, you could hear it a mile away. Now there are people who say, 'This is really good music.'"

The question, of course, is will these films make a difference? Films of 2004 such as "Fahrenheit 9/11" and "Bush's Brain" had lots of viewers, but Bush was re-elected. Still, with the Internet playing a role in people's lives that grows by the nanosecond, and presidential elections being won by fewer than a thousand votes in one state, a few hundred thousand hits on YouTube could make a difference, analysts and filmmakers on both sides of the aisle speculate. If not, the films and spots will generate talk on radio and cable TV.

And in an election year, anything can happen. If you had told Robert Greenwald a year ago that his shorts would pass 22 million total views, he told ABC News, "I would have said, 'You're out of your mind.'"

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