Pure Horserace: Web Video Wins

hillary clinton
Hillary Clinton for President
Web video. It's well-trodden ground, a subject that seems to have been over-written and over-analyzed already in this young election season. But don't let yourself become jaded about the topic. For this never-ending contest, the Internet is proving to be the most interesting aspect of the campaign.

Hillary Clinton, of course, made a big splash by announcing her candidacy on her Web site and has continued to make the Internet a major part of the campaign. As we've chronicled in the past, Clinton's campaign has been conducting a virtual contest in their quest to choose an official theme song. Today, they're announcing the winner online — with at least a stab at humor.

The campaign today announced the winner with a nod to the controversial and much-talked about series ending to "The Sopranos." The video casts Clinton in the role of Tony Soprano, sitting in a dinner with a small jukebox as she waits for her husband, who makes an appearance, and her daughter, who does not.

It's worth watching just to see the look on the former president's face when carrot sticks arrive at the table instead of onion rings — and for a cameo appearance by "Sopranos" actor Vince Curatola (Johnny Sacramoni on the show). As with the ending of the show, the screen goes black at the critical moment of unveiling the song. One click takes you to the actual winner — "You and I" by Celine Dion.

It's not surprising that the campaign would look toward a female singer for a theme to represent Clinton's campaign, but "The Sopranos" tie-in seems like awkward symbolism — especially since many of the show's fans believe the mobster was whacked at the end. But let's not read too much into what is otherwise a fun little video.

That takes us to another hot video topic these days: the truly odd ones on YouTube featuring Democratic gadfly Mike Gravel. In one, Gravel simply stares at the camera for a full minute and 12 seconds, then turns and walks a few steps before picking up a rock and throwing it into a lake. He then just walks away. In the second, Gravel is briefly seen gathering sticks and branches in the woods. He carries them to a fire and then viewers get a full seven minutes of watching the campfire.

We're not even going to start trying to figure out that these videos mean (in an MSNBC interview, Gravel said their meanings are metaphorical), but they've garnered more attention than Gravel has gotten almost anywhere else. The first video has gotten more than 95,000 views so far and has spawned some creative responses.

From the funny to the eccentric to the sentimental, Mitt Romney's campaign has been touting a lengthy new video on their site, made last Christmas as the Romney family gathered to make a final decision about running. Moderated by Ann Romney, the video is partly a campaign-bio and partly a stab at transparency.

From Ann, we learn all about the candidate's attributes and also about how the family chores are divided up when the five sons, their wives and the 10 grandchildren are all gathered together. After Christmas dinner, family members gather and discuss their feelings about whether Romney should become a candidate. Of course, we know how that discussion turned out.

Traditionally, campaigns have been seen by voters through television news, where sound bites and uniform images prevail. In recent years, supporters were provided with videos or DVDs containing a biographical film or two. Now that the floodgates have opened on Internet video, there are new attempts to connect with voters on an almost daily basis. It promises to be one of the more interesting aspects of 2008. — Vaughn Ververs

Bringing Out The Big Dog: Hillary Clinton has been facing questions lately about how seriously she's taking the Iowa caucuses — not only has she fallen to third place in polls in the early-voting states, but she also had to restate her commitment to the state after the leak of a campaign memo in which one of her advisers toyed with the idea of abandoning Iowa to focus on other early states.

But Clinton's latest move in Iowa may put all doubts to rest. Next month, for the first time, former President Bill Clinton will hit the campaign trail on behalf of his wife, and the Hawkeye State will be his destination. The Associated Press notes that while Hillary has struggled in the state, her husband remains incredibly popular: a state Democratic Party fundraiser featuring him sold out in hours.

Having the former president campaign in Iowa reflects that Bill Clinton is more than just a fundraising draw for his wife's campaign. While Democratic voters, particularly in Iowa, aren't sold on Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton, the most successful Democratic politician in the past 25 years, is a revered figure. Bringing him in to states where Hillary is running behind could be enough to make people put their reservations about the New York senator aside and bask in their good memories of her husband's administration.

Will it be enough to end Hillary's Iowa slump? If nostalgia for the past can outweigh concerns about the present, it just might. — David Miller

Speaking Of Iowa: When you're offered a high-level post in the executive branch of government it's sort of hard to turn that down. When that person happens to be your chief political strategist in Iowa, it's got to hurt a little.

News that the president's budget chief Rob Portman is stepping down today was quickly followed by the announcement of his replacement — former Iowa congressman Jim Nussle — who until today was the primary mover and shaker for Rudy Giuliani's efforts in Iowa. In fact, just a couple of weeks ago, it was Nussle who joined with Giuliani's campaign manager Mike DuHaime to explain to reporters why the decision not to participate in the Iowa straw poll this summer was the right one.

Iowa has proven a tricky state for the former New York City mayor, whose moderate positions on many core GOP issues are an uncomfortable fit there. New Hampshire — and especially the larger Feb. 5 states — promise more reward. But Giuliani's campaign staff insists they are playing and playing hard in Iowa for January's caucuses, something that can't have gotten easier with the loss of Nussle in that effort. — Vaughn Ververs

McCain Hopes Calendar Is Canned: Presidential candidates are usually mum about the efforts of states to secure (or maintain) early primary and caucus dates, but apparently this year's rush by states to move up the calendar was too much for one contender, Republican John McCain, to keep quiet.

During a fundraising trip to Florida — which is flouting party rules by scheduling primaries for Jan. 29 — McCain said the nominating schedule has become "a little bizarre," according to the Associated Press.

"In principal, this process should be drawn out a lot longer so people have a better chance to examine the candidates," McCain said. "There is no way of coming back now if it's all the first week in February or even the last week in January."

McCain's stance may be based on principle, but it's worth noting that he currently trails Romney in both Iowa and New Hampshire — if that continues until next January, a little time to recover would come in handy.

Though at this point, he'd be unlikely to get it — something McCain already seems to know, saying "there is nothing I can do about it except play by the rules." — David Miller

Editor's Note: Pure Horserace is a daily update of political news as interpreted by the political observers at CBSNews.com. Click here to sign up for the e-mail version.

By Vaughn Ververs and David Miller