Politics & Policy

Pawlenty’s Close-up

The rap on Tim Pawlenty is that he’s boring. And when he was prepping for his presidential bid, his videos were too. Take a gander at his announcement that he wouldn’t seek a third term as governor of Minnesota. In terms of political flavoring, it’s vanilla: a pleasant-looking politician in a button-down shirt — but no tie! — standing in front of a fireplace with a decorative plate on the mantel. It’s safe; it’s innocuous it’s forgettable: It got only 2,463 views.

The video is the work of Lucas Baiano, a 22-year-old filmmaker who recently jumped aboard the Pawlenty ship. His work has been so popular that he’s made several clips for Pawlenty, including his declaration of candidacy. And they’re working. “We had 100,000 views on our announcement video within the first 24 hours or so after it went up, and that’s really encouraging,” Alex Conant, communications director for Pawlenty’s campaign, tells NRO.

But danger lurks beneath the limelight. In March, comedian Stephen Colbert mocked Pawlenty’s videos by showing raw footage of the governor’s less-than-compelling speech at the National Press Club, which Baiano’s editing skills had portrayed as a momentous event. Colbert piled on: “It sounds like he was speaking at a conference room at the Day’s Inn.”

Ben Howe, the computer whiz behind the popular election-eve YouTube video “The Socialist,” agrees that Colbert’s critique is salient. “Movie trailers are essentially a way to get people interested in something they know nothing about. That’s what Pawlenty wants to do. He has to live up to that hype. If he doesn’t, that will be the running joke: His videos are better than his speeches.” So far, however, Howe thinks the videos have been effective.

And Pawlenty plans to have more of them. “These videos are incredibly popular,” Conant says. “They speak to conservative concerns about the direction of the country and hopes for the future. And I think any conservative would be glad to see a presidential candidate stepping up and speaking with such a clear voice about conservative ideas in a format that’s appealing to people who normally don’t spend their time watching political videos online.”

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