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Fred Thompson -- Latest Candidate in the YouTube Cross Hairs

On the eve of former Sen. Fred Thompson's (R-Tenn.) sort-of formal entry into the presidential race today, an e-mail arrived in The Fix's inbox.

It was from someone calling himself "prochoicefred" and offered a link to this YouTube video:

Amateurish? Yes. Potentially effective? Maybe.

Lots of videos just like this one are placed on YouTube every day. Occasionally -- thanks to Drudge or some other powerful national aggregator -- they pop up into the national consciousness and for a day or so can come to define the political debate.

It started this cycle with the anti-Hillary "1984" and the posting of past debate clips featuring Mitt Romney. It continued through "Bomb Iran" and "Obamagirl."

Will this anti-Thompson video join those already famous ranks? Who knows.

What the video clip aims to do is take Thompson's great strengths -- his time as an actor on "Law & Order" and his conservative credentials -- and turn them both against him.

It features clips from 1994, 1996 and earlier this year that are edited in such a way to make it appear as though Thompson is not sufficiently opposed to abortion. The voice over at the ad's start (set to the "Law & Order" music) says it all: "In the American political system there are two types of people; those who are pro life and those who are pro choice."

This video is a continuation of a low-level online campaign designed to raise questions about Thompson's position on abortion. When it became clear he was seriously considering the race, a 1996 Christian Coalition survey surfaced in which Thompson checked the "opposed" box on a question of whether he supported a consitutional amendment to protect the sanctity of human life. (That image is shown in the "prochoicefred" video as well.)

Thompson has largely dismissed questions about his position on abortion so far, insisting he is and always has been opposed to abortion. The question is whether these online attempts to ding Thompson on the issue wind up creating enough low-level buzz that he feels compelled to respond in a public way.

To date most presidential campaigns have tried to ignore viral video -- whether for good (Obamagirl) or bad (Bomb Iran). The idea is that paying any attention to it makes it a bigger deal than it would otherwise be. Of course, as former Sen. George Allen learned with "Macaca," sometimes that strategy doesn't always work.

By Chris Cillizza  |  June 27, 2007; 1:10 PM ET
Categories:  Eye on 2008  
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