How media moves

Barack Obama is going to be on the Daily Show tonight. How do I know? Twitter. Their election site is a buzz with infomercial talk. Moreover, they are wondering what’s going to happen when Jon Stewart can make fun of the Obamathon. Obama will dominate the cycle. The question becomes is this overload? Will it turn voters off? Or will it accomplish it’s mission energizing the ground game and getting people into action?

Obama infomercial great for the faithful…not many others

Just watched the Obamathon (available in full above) and it seems clear that it wanted to achieve three basic things:

1. Continue to drive home the point that Barack Obama is “one of us.” Stories of his mother and absent father, stories of his grandparents, images of him with the girls. Obama is a regular family man just like you Mr. Undecided voter. 

2. He gets your problems. He’s not a high-minded intellectual, he walks the walk and listens to real people all over the country he knows these problems are real. 

3. For the faithful, get out and vote, call, knock on doors, etc. 

While skeptics certainly weren’t turned, and few undecideds were either. I think this television ad basically created a summation and a closing argument for Obama’s campaign in a way that really nothing else could. After the last debate its up to the media to parse out information to voters. This was a way to rally the troops one last time nationally, and it was a way to lay out the points above. It captured the intimate and the grand. 

So was it nothing more than propaganda…you bet. But it was well-produced propaganda, and if it did nothing else but get a few couch potatoes off their butts and on the phone call roster, it did something.

Quick Hit: Managing Expectations

For those of you wondering how bad (or good) Senator McCain’s chances are and are confused by the endless horserace style coverage let me try to break it down simply.

Basically Obama is running hard in states Bush won in 2004. While the electoral map is largely the same, in terms of battleground states. Obama is putting McCain on defense in states he should be leading in and McCain is not returning the favor. Does that mean McCain can’t win. No. But he’s defending places like Virginia, North Carolina, Colorado, and New Mexico. All of which were considered Red. If he loses one especially Virginia, the math gets extremely difficult for him. At the moment, previously blue states are not in jeopardy. So Obama can concentrate on winning the battlegrounds states like Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Florida. Notice I’ve dropped Michigan from that list, that’s because the McCain campaign has pulled out of Michigan for lack of resources.

So in short Mccain has a narrower path to the White House. Narrow but not impossible. Is this thing over? Absolutely not. Does McCain need something to change, you bet.

William Kristol Begs: Let McCain be McCain

In his NY Times Column this week, William Kristol wants McCain to fire his campaign staff and work from the gut. He writes:

The McCain campaign, once merely problematic, is now close to being out-and-out dysfunctional. Its combination of strategic incoherence and operational incompetence has become toxic…. 

…What McCain needs to do is junk the whole thing and start over. Shut down the rapid responses, end the frantic e-mails, bench the spinning surrogates, stop putting up new TV and Internet ads every minute. In fact, pull all the ads — they’re doing no good anyway. Use that money for televised town halls and half-hour addresses in prime time…

The problem of course with this line of reasoning is that it somehow separates McCain from the campaign he is running. Kristol seems to believe a more coherent, more economically learned candidate is buried within the McCain campaign somewhere. That deep down America really wants John McCain, they just don’t know it because the spin masters have done such a terrible job. Kristol would have us think that the wild machinations from “the fundamentals are strong” to this being economic armageddon don’t instill a lot of confidence in most voters even if Sarah Palin calls them “Joe Six-Pack.”   

Or maybe Kristol is doing what pundits always do, blaming the campaign staff for their candidates slide, instead of the candidate himself. McCain’s campaign has made some missteps, but we will never know which were generated by Rick Davis and his team and which came from McCain himself. This election was supposed to be all about Obama, yet McCain can’t seem to keep himself out of the spotlight and out of the realm of judgment. The non-suspension of his campaign is the biggest case in point. Only John McCain could decide it was time to make himself the center of attention during an economic hurricane. And we’ll never know if it was the campaign or John McCain that decided Sarah Palin would be the Hail Mary Pass that would win this game. What we do know is McCain approved it. 

The real problem the McCain campaign is up against is there’s no good way to couch his economic message, foreign policy views, or general shoot-from-the-hip demeanor as anything other than very similar to George W. Bush. Sure people may see McCain as more competent, but on policy there is little separating the two. That’s not spin, it’s fact. 

If anything a candidate with such a flawed platform in these times needs to commend his staff for keeping it this close. I thought Obama was supposed to have been up by double digits by now? Let’s leave the campaigns alone and just see this for what it is a candidate misshapen for the times is against a candidate of the moment, no amount of non-campaigning will fix that.

Obama buys major air time

Quick hit: Obama buying prime time air on NBC and CBS October 29th in unprecendented air time buy in election season.

Obama: Where’s the Passion?

There were two moments in Tuesday night’s debate where Senator Obama almost made the debate memorable. Almost. 

One was the question on national service and sacrifice, where Obama came right to the edge of saying that Americans were going to have to tighten their belts when it came to energy use. But he balked and parsed and slowed down:

You know, a lot of you remember the tragedy of 9/11 and where you were on that day and, you know, how all of the country was ready to come together and make enormous changes to make us not only safer, but to make us a better country and a more unified country.

And President Bush did some smart things at the outset, but one of the opportunities that was missed was, when he spoke to the American people, he said, “Go out and shop.”

That wasn’t the kind of call to service that I think the American people were looking for.

And so it’s important to understand that the — I think the American people are hungry for the kind of leadership that is going to tackle these problems not just in government, but outside of government.

And let’s take the example of energy, which we already spoke about. There is going to be the need for each and every one of us to start thinking about how we use energy.

I believe in the need for increased oil production. We’re going to have to explore new ways to get more oil, and that includes offshore drilling. It includes telling the oil companies, that currently have 68 million acres that they’re not using, that either you use them or you lose them.

We’re going to have to develop clean coal technology and safe ways to store nuclear energy.

But each and every one of us can start thinking about how can we save energy in our homes, in our buildings. And one of the things I want to do is make sure that we’re providing incentives so that you can buy a fuel efficient car that’s made right here in the United States of America, not in Japan or South Korea, making sure that you are able to weatherize your home or make your business more fuel efficient.

And that’s going to require effort from each and every one of us.

And the last point I just want to make. I think the young people of America are especially interested in how they can serve, and that’s one of the reasons why I’m interested in doubling the Peace Corps, making sure that we are creating a volunteer corps all across this country that can be involved in their community, involved in military service, so that military families and our troops are not the only ones bearing the burden of renewing America.

That’s something that all of us have to be involved with and that requires some leadership from Washington.

 

The other was something he actually said on healthcare, the words were stirring but the passion was lacking:

Brokaw: Privilege, right or responsibility. Let’s start with that.

Obama: Well, I think it should be a right for every American. In a country as wealthy as ours, for us to have people who are going bankrupt because they can’t pay their medical bills — for my mother to die of cancer at the age of 53 and have to spend the last months of her life in the hospital room arguing with insurance companies because they’re saying that this may be a pre-existing condition and they don’t have to pay her treatment, there’s something fundamentally wrong about that….

He then went on to the standard talking points on healthcare. Do you remember that moment in the debate? It took me a long time too. Because Obama strolled the stage reciting these lines with none of the oratorical vigor or emotional connection necessary to make his point memorable. The story of his mother could be the crucible in which his healthcare policy was born, instead its just another bland talking point. 

The Obama campaign is looking to stay steady in the last few weeks. I admire that. But he needs to be allowed to get some emotion going. He needs to bring humanity to his positions. I happen to agree with many of them, but if I didn’t there was nothing in that debate performance that would have convinced me. 

I know they’re talking points, but would a little passion kill ya?

John McCain channels Rove and kills his brand

One of the questions that gets John McCain most onery these days is “where is the old McCain?” On television appearances like on “The View” and in various pool reports, McCain get visibly annoyed at the question. 

Reading the transcript from a recent Time Magazine interview, you can almost hear McCain’s annoyance: 

There’s a theme that recurs in your books and your speeches, both about putting country first but also about honor. I wonder if you could define honor for us?
Read it in my books.

I’ve read your books.
No, I’m not going to define it.

But honor in politics?
I defined it in five books. Read my books.

and another excerpt…

Do you miss the old way of doing it?
I don’t know what you’re talking about.

Really? Come on, Senator.
I’ll provide as much access as possible …

In 2000, after the primaries, you went back to South Carolina to talk about what you felt was a mistake you had made on the Confederate flag. Is there anything so far about this campaign that you wish you could take back or you might revisit when it’s over?
[Does not answer.]

Do I know you? [Says with a laugh.]
[Long pause.] I’m very happy with the way our campaign has been conducted, and I am very pleased and humbled to have the nomination of the Republican Party.

You do acknowledge there was a change in the campaign, in the way you had run the campaign?
[Shakes his head.]

You don’t acknowledge that? O.K., when your aides came to you and you decided, having been attacked by Barack Obama, to run some of those ads, was there a debate?
The campaign responded as planned.

McCain’s annoyance is clear, his talking points memorized. Tuesday’s debate was a talking point festival for both candidates. Only one of them looked comfortable. McCain’s brand is that of a maverick. We’ve heard the word so many times that it’s beginning to grate on the nation’s collective nerves. But a maverick wouldn’t run a campaign like this. And a true maverick would be doing what he thought was right for the country, not what is politically expedient at any given moment. 

Case in point: Sarah Palin. 

Sarah Palin is quite charming, for many across the country she is the original VPILF (look it up). But to anyone with an even remotely objective eye sees she’s not VP material. The sad thing here is that even McCain wanted someone else. He wanted Joe Liberman. Reports leading up the convention were that he even floated the idea of tapping Lieberman, to the dismay of the right of this party, particularly the Pro-Life set. 

Instead the “original maverick” made a choice geared directly at his base. They tried to dress it up as a maverick move, a decision outside the box and all that nonsense. The truth is a Lieberman pick would have put McCain outside the box and maybe all those swing states he’s failing in at the moment would have given him another chance. Maybe we would have seen the old John McCain. Instead the disciples of Rove drilled their talking points into two heads instead of one and then the McCain/Palin (still rarely seen apart) hit the trail. 

John McCain’s brand was about bringing people of disparate views together. It was about using dissonance to create solutions. But with the tactics of the last few months, Americans are feeling like they’ve seen this movie before. Its stars are different, but it feels the same. It feels like Karl Rove all over again.