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Video Digest: January 11, 2008

We've heard plenty from the candidates, but what about the voters--the independents, the students, the wackos? Meave Gallagher investigates the unheard masses.

Only 11 days into it and I’m already tired of the presidential hopefuls. Maybe it felt different living in Iowa or New Hampshire, being wooed by each candidate personally, correcting the hordes of reporters who kept calling you a voter—“I’m going to caucus right now, yes.”

Sounds pretty good to me. California moved its primary up to this “super Tuesday” on February 5, sharing the date with 21 other states, so, as usual, I’m not expecting to see any of our special people in person. I see a lot of problems with such a rushed decision-making process—one is that it doesn’t give us voters much time to get a solid understanding of the candidates’ platforms. Repeating the word “change” 50 times in a five-minute speech does not an explanation of issues constitute. My opinion of the frontrunners changes daily; how do you decide on one candidate to caucus or vote for?

A charmingly bumbling YouTube employee called Steve heads project Citizen Tube, which among other things encourages YouTube users to participate in political events, and submit videos about their experiences. Here, Steve visits precinct 64 in Des Moines, to talk to caucus-goers and explain to the uneducated how the Democratic and Republican caucuses work. Hint: entirely differently.

I was one week shy of 18 when the 2000 elections took place. My coworker and I spent as much of that night as we could with the radio turned up loud, cheering whenever Gore took a state, and freaking out when they called one for Bush. The next year I was of age, and I haven’t missed an election yet. The appeal of this video is how unmediated it feels: it’s just students telling the camera who they support, and why. The absolute certainty of some of them reminds me of how sure I was of my convictions back then.

The news has been telling us that the independent vote is going to be crucial this year, but who exactly do they mean? Members of the American Independent party? People who check “decline to state” on their voter registration materials? Considering how our friends on television like everything to be so clearly blue and red, I imagine they view anyone who isn’t in one of those camps as “independent.” Now, who are these people, and why won’t they just go right or left already?

Actual proof that speechifying changes minds: Michelle Obama sways “decided” voters in New Hampshire. This is the kind of opportunity that the crowded-together states are going to miss. No candidate or spouse will have enough time to reach people the way they could in Iowa and N.H., which is a shame. Part of voting for president is voting for someone you want to lead your country, and the printed word just can’t convey the power of a good speech. This, by the way, is one of the reasons Mike Huckabee is doing so well—his connection to the voters.

Huckabee is supposed to be the evangelical Christian’s dream candidate; shouldn’t, then, Mitt Romney be a Mormon hero? Why isn’t the LDS Church rallying ‘round Romney? A member of the LDS Church theorizes that maybe some votes for Huckabee aren’t so much in support of the governor of Arkansas as against the mysterious Mormon. OK, I thought it was a crazy idea, too, but listen to the guy; he makes a good argument.

See, my first assumption was right: In New Hampshire, the presidential primaries are the craziest, most thrilling days of your life. Our polite young student reporter tries and tries, but he just isn’t as obnoxiously pushy as his brethren on cable TV—to his credit, certainly. That’s what makes this report so effective: the man in the blue jacket cannot, will not commit to a candidate on-camera. He seems flabbergasted that anyone could expect him to answer such a serious question so flippantly. How can anyone think of voting without having been to one gymnasium rally yet?

I’m with blue-jacket man. It’s too early, there are too many candidates playing stump-speech mad-libs, and the onslaught of political “analysis” based on bizarre information is killing me. If this little guy hadn’t been born in Israel, maybe I’d have made him my write-in candidate.

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