And the winner by a landslide is.... YouTube

This election year is full of firsts. It's the first time we've had an African American nominee from a major party. It's the first time we've ever had a septuagenarian running as a non-incumbent. It's probably the first time a vice presidential candidate has considered being called a pitbull a compliment.

And it's the first presidential election in the Age of YouTube.

Though it seems like it's been with us forever, YouTube wasn't around in 2004. These days, if a candidate said it, somebody probably videotaped it and -- faster than you can say "Macaca" -- posted it on YouTube. In other words, the era of plausible deniability is over.

We haven't had any true Macaca moments [video] by any of the major candidates yet, but there's still time left for an October surprise.

As I write this, the half million Obama dramas outnumber McCain's by about two to one -- and both of them far outstrip videos about the current officeholder (what was his name again?).

But there's plenty of other juicy stuff. Like Sarah Palin's being blessed by Reverand Thomas Muthee (including an innoculation against witchcraft) vs the Reverand Wright Show. And all that home made satire, some of which is funnier than anything this side of Saturday Night Live.

Will YouTube change the outcome of the election? You could argue that it already has. McCain's "joke" singing of "Bomb bomb bomb, bomb bomb Iran" became fodder for Obama in a recent debate. That wouldn't have happened without it being captured and replayed on YouTube. (And, of course, Obama's quoting of it became another viral video.)

[UPDATE: YouTube videos are so important to McCain that campaign officials sent letters protesting the removal of several McCain videos for alleged DMCA copyright violations. It's interesting how some people suddenly discover the wisdom of Fair Use.]

Does YouTube improve the political process? Maybe, maybe not. Anything that makes our leaders more accountable is OK in my book. But when politicians have to worry about every syllable that drops from their lips -- and get savaged for every mistake -- we'll get even less 'straight talk' than we already have.

Most Americans say they want politicians who'll speak the truth. In the YouTube Era we'll have to become more comfortable with politicians who sometimes stray from their scripts and say profoundly stupid things on camera. Because from now on we'll be seeing a lot more of them, whether we want to or not.

What's your favorite YouTube political moment? Post your thoughts below or email me direct: dan (at) dantynan (dot) com.

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