Campaign Videos: Will Anyone Pay to See Them?

  • Doug Coulter

    Lucas R. Baiano

    The Republican Governors Association is planning to do something very different this fall with a new batch of online videos.

    Instead of the typical 30- or 60-second YouTube attack spots, the group has prepared two video documentaries, at about 25 and 45 minutes long respectively. The first video, prepped for September release on the web, will focus on the accomplishments of Chris Christie, New Jersey's mold-breaking GOP governor. The second video, a month later, will expand the argument to other gubernatorial races but will be available only behind an online paywall.

    The new offerings are the work of a precocious 22-year-old filmmaker, Lucas Baiano, who got his start in national politics volunteering for Hillary Clinton's 2008 campaign. He has since soured on Democrats. In April, he created the Republican "Remember November" series of videos, which has attracted an email list of some 350,000 online supporters with barbed attacks on Barack Obama's record. "For anybody who says the left owns new media, I am here to assist in leveling the playing field," says Baiano, who hails from Canada but looks Hollywood, with tight suits, starched cuffs and windswept hair.

    Baiano's first foray into politics began as a student project. In 2007, he approached former President Bill Clinton in a bookstore to pitch his idea for a movie on the campaign of his wife. "He gave me his business card," Baiano said. "I produced a two and a half minute trailer." That trailer was posted online, garnering tens of thousands of hits. After the election, Baiano created a biographical film of his work with the Clinton Campaign, called WeRPolitics, which contained many of the stylistic marks of his work with RGA. "With the YouTube generation, it has to be raw to connect to people," Baiano said.

    After Clinton stepped down from the race, Baiano began volunteering for John McCain's campaign. "At that moment, it became an election of experience," he says by way of explanation. The McCain work led to his hiring at the governors' association, where he produced a visually charged spot in April attacking President Obama with the phrase "Remember November." Baiano said he got the idea for the slogan from a sign he saw at a conservative protest. He said he was not aware that the same slogan had been used, in a humorous homage to Guy Fawkes, the 17th Century British terrorist, by supporters of Republican presidential candidate Ron Paul.

    Campaign consultants have tried long-form online videos before, but few have caught the same fire as the short spots, and there is little to suggest that voters are willing to pay for what amounts to an ad. But every cycle is different and RGA spokesman Mike Schrimpf says his group sees the videos as a fundraising opportunity. "We are confident that a large number of individuals will be willing to support our mission," he said.

    The first video, called "A New Jersey," is also scheduled to be screened September 8 at Washington D.C.'s E Street Cinema.