March 20, 2007 -- If the 2004 campaign cycle was about the novelty of fundraising online, for the current mix of White House hopefuls, 2008 could revolutionize the use of the Internet to spread your word.
Or, in the case of Sen. Hillary Clinton, D-N.Y., for someone else to spread the word about you by way of a slick and mysterious attack ad.
A remake of the seminal "1984" Apple ad spot for Macintosh featuring New York's junior senator as Big Brother has been making rounds on the Internet for the last two weeks. This time YouTube is the venue of choice and the ad spoof is well on its way to a million views.
Silly, candid moments are nothing new on the Internet, and YouTube is the virtual corner where candidates have a hard time escaping their pasts. (Just ask former Sen. George Allen, R-Va.; former Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Mont.; or most recently, former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani whose "Hmmm" heard 'round the world has been playing on repeat.)
But the attack on Clinton, which ends with a plug for BarackObama.com, is a polished and sophisticated take: the overarching metaphor of the athlete (Obama) rescuing the numbingly mindless public from the evil establishment (Clinton).
The Obama campaign says it had nothing to do with it.
While nobody knows who made the ad, it quickly spawned an anti-Obama e-counterpunch.
Experts say it could be a groundbreaking moment in the brave new world of Internet campaigning.
"The days of being in total control of your message are over," said Democratic strategist Joe Trippi. "I believe we'll see in this cycle one of those Internet videos actually help make a candidate and also help take one down."
The candidates are trying to harness almost limitless power of the Internet and keep up with campaigning on an information superhighway that's left Main Street far behind.
It's a campaign political strategists say is happening on the Web right now, fought on blogs and popular social networking sites like MySpace where popularity is measured by your number of friends. (Obama's in the lead on that one.)
Though it's hard to measure the Internet's political impact, more than 3 million young people voted in 2004 than in 2000. And when compared to the Jib-Jab free Internet video that graced the computer monitors of 65 million in 2004, it would cost as much as $3 million to buy TV time for those eyeballs today.