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Thompson Gets
His 15 Minutes

Former senator John Edwards started the trend. Sen. Hillary Clinton, Sen. Barack Obama and Sen. Sam Brownback, among others, followed suit. And now, late into the primary season, Fred Thompson too is announcing his candidacy via an online video, to be posted on his Web site at 12:01 a.m. Thursday.

The difference is, Thompson's video announcement clocks in at 15 minutes -- longer than Edwards's, Clinton's Obama's and Brownback's combined. In the YouTubesphere, the length of a video, especially a politically-oriented video, is often as important as its content. And 15 minutes, some online strategists said, "would feel like an eternity." Even for the telegenic Thompson, who played New York City Disrict Attorney Arthur Branch in the popular TV show "Law & Order."

"Maybe the video is aimed at the 'Law & Order' audience that's used to Branch's long speeches in the court room before commercial breaks," quipped Colin Delany at epolitics.com. "Or maybe his campaign haven't been paying attention on what works on sites like YouTube." Added Dan Manatt of PoliticsTV.com: "It's a big red flag that his announcement video is that long. It seems that Fred Thompson is not only late to the party when it comes to election, he's late to the party when it comes to figuring out how to do an announcement video."

Officials at the Thompson campaign were eager to explain the video's length. As the latest candidate to announce a White House bid, the former two-term senator is unknown to most Americans, and the video, aides said, is his "official statement to the electorate." It's part bio-pic, part motivational pitch that distinguishes Thompson from the crowded Republican field, said Eric Livingston, who heads the campaign's online team. "The senator didn't jump into the race a year ago," Livingston added. "People haven't heard as much from him."

Thompson, who's been "testing the waters" and blogging up a storm on conservative sites since early this year, has assembled a solid online team, one of the strongest among the Republican contenders. Livingston served as acting eCampaign director at the Republican National Committee. He's aided by Mike Turk, who served as Internet director for President Bush's 2004 re-election campaign and is considered one of the most innovative online operatives in the business, and Todd Zeigler of the Bivings Group, a Washington-based online communications firm.

In a dig to the length of other campaigns' announcement videos, Livingston said, "I don't think anyone can explain why they're running for president in two minutes." Clinton's video clocked in at 1 minute and 53 seconds.

-- Jose Antonio Vargas

By Washington Post editors  |  September 5, 2007; 5:37 PM ET
 
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