WASHINGTON – If the presidential race weren't hot enough, now come the Romney Girls, the three latest additions to the exploding genre of digital political satire.
Posted late Tuesday on BarelyPolitical.com and YouTube.com, the Romney Girls — bona fide triplets — are rooting for Republican Mitt Romney, and are the follow-up from the makers of the Internet blockbuster videos "I Got a Crush on Obama" and "Debate '08: Obama Girl vs. Giuliani Girl." The videos so far have featured stylish, young women lyrically boasting the credentials of their favorite White House contenders, Democrat Barack Obama and Republican Rudy Giuliani.
But the latest video features a twist: Instead of lyrics, it goes negative.
The one-minute, 11-second video starts with a narrator asking, in a condescending tone: "How much can we really trust Obama Girl?"
Then it features clips of real news coverage over the original Obama video — acted by Amber Lee Ettinger and sung by Leah Kauffman — and Ettinger apparently talking out of both sides of her mouth about her support for Obama. After a dash of Howard Stern, Ettinger in a bathing suit and a few digital liberties with newspaper headlines, the narrator returns.
"Why can't Obama Girl just pick a position?"
And then the turn: The negative background music ends, and the three blonde triplets, holding campaign photos of the former Massachusetts governor, appear.
"We're the Romney Girls and we approve this message."
Republican media and Internet strategist David All said the Web video doesn't offer much as far as a political message, but if it catches on like other viral political videos have, it can only help the candidate by getting Romney's name in front of people who normally wouldn't know who he is.
Other videos, like John Edwards' "Hair" video and the spoof produced by Hillary Clinton's campaign that teed off the series finale of "The Sopranos" have transcended targeted supporters, getting picked up on blogs and news media all over the Web, and talked about beyond just political circles.
"It's just another way to talk about politics, and it's a way ... to make the leap from politics to more of a mainstream audience," said All, who is based in Washington.
Ben Relles, creator of BarelyPolitical.com and producer of the videos, said he and his collaborators had been talking about doing a Romney video for a few weeks, and decided "to mix things up"and bring in either twins or triplets. They recently found the Barbadoro sisters — Cynthia, Christine and Caroline
But the team went into overdrive after Romney attacked Obama in Sunday's Republican debate over his stance on Pakistan. Following that came the news that Giuliani's daughter joined a Facebook.com group supportive of Barack Obama, so in a few hours of shooting Monday and editing Tuesday, the team slapped together the new faux ad.
"To a degree, it's obviously spoofing the way the candidates do these silly attack ads," Relles said, reached by phone in New York.
Relles said some thought has gone into whom they're picking to portray the candidate's telegenic fans — "That is what we're trying to do, create different characters" — but it's not too deep of a process.
"The reason we went with these triplets is after meeting with them, (we found) they're such a riot," he said.
At least one blog suggested Wednesday that Romney's multiple female supporters in the video is an unsubtle way to poke fun at Romney's religion. He's a Mormon, and although the church no longer allows polygamy, the practice once was endorsed by the church. Relles said that was not his intention, and points out that the Giuliani video featured multiple supporters for both Obama and Giuliani.
Relles said the site is not affiliated with any of the candidates but it gets plenty of fan mail from voters as well as people who say they work on campaigns. He said only about one in 20 messages say the videos are sullying the serious business of politics.
Relles said fans of the site can expect more to come in the coming weeks. The Barbadoros also are singers/songwriters and have begun working on material for their Romney Girl music video. In an effort to change the pace, away from candidate-specific videos, "Crush on Obama" songstress Kauffman is working on a non-candidate political satire piece.
"I think it's going to be a really cool video," Relles said.