Republican Mayoral candidate Greg Ballard has yet to run television ads in his bid to unseat Democratic incumbent Bart Peterson, but that hasn't stopped supporters from creating their own commercials. There are a number of anti-Peterson commercials currently circulating on YouTube.
For as long as anyone can remember, the front yard was fertile ground for political campaigns. Now MySpace and YouTube are offering a new stage not only for the campaigns but for constituents themselves to participate in the process by making their own videos supporting or criticizing a candidate.
The Ballard campaign says they are well aware of the ads but not responsible for them. (See one example of a pro-Ballard YouTube ad.)
"None of these ads are Republican ads but I love seeing them. I think it is indicative of the feelings in the city because people are really upset with the direction of the city," said Tom John, Marion County Republican Party.
One video criticizes Mayor Bart Peterson to the tune of "I Put a Spell On You," with intertitles like "increased spending" and "no oversight," showing video of the much-delayed Central Library project.
"It's clear in the world of paid media it's a violation of paid and federal election law," said Mike O'Connor, Marion County Democratic Party.
But there is the rub. It is in the unregulated arena of the worldwide web. O'Connor hopes voters who see them will judge them for what they are worth.
"You expect people watching this at home, you hope are generally responsible, rational people who will look at that and take it for what it is worth," said O'Connor.
"It is an interesting contrast. We have the mayor putting up a slick ad that he spent tens of thousands of dollars putting on the air where as we now have all these people with their computers in their basement putting together very slick ads - good ads that show what the real issues of the campaign are," said John.
"I have seen a couple of them. Clearly a couple of them are outside the boundaries of taste and two since we don't know where they come from they have factual inaccuracies," said O'Connor.
Still, it's a new political reality. Just as grassroots internet support can give a longshot candidate a chance, online activity can also hurt a candidate's image - unless, of course, that candidate learns to use the new technology to his or her advantage.
Mike O'Connor just cracks me up. "You expect people watching this at home, you hope are generally responsible, rational people who will look at that and take it for what it is worth," said O'Connor. I take that as a sign he fears the worst. My personal favorite is the YouTube clip of Peterson singing "I'm the Tax Man." Click here to view it. The "Lies, Lies, Lies" ad here is worth a watch as well. For the real Ballard ads, you're going to have to stay tuned. Ballard assures us they will arrive soon enough.
UPDATE: There's already a new YouTube response to O'Connor's reaction here.