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Obama’s Infomercial Frames His Closing Argument

by @ 7:38 am on October 30, 2008. Filed under 2008 Election, Barack Obama, Politics

With only five days left until Election Day, Barack Obama took the opportunity to use some of that cash he’s been raising to make his case to the American public:

WASHINGTON (CNN) — Sen. Barack Obama’s 30-minute TV ad, which ran simultaneously on broadcast and cable networks at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday, is muscle-flexing that has little precedent, a campaign advertising expert said.

“It’s evidence, if you needed any, that the Obama campaign has more money than there is ad time left to buy,” said Evan Tracey, director of the Campaign Media Analysis Group. “This is flexing the muscles.”

Tracey estimates that it will cost the campaign “in the $4 to 5 million range — at a minimum, $3.5 million.”

But, he said, spending the money is a “no-brainer” for the Democratic presidential hopeful.

“The strategic brilliance of this for Obama is that he is going to consume about 24 hours of the news cycle,” Tracey said. “It boxes [John] McCain in, takes the oxygen out of the room.”

In the carefully produced infomercial, Obama laid out his plans for the economy and for bringing an end to the war in Iraq.

It also featured stories of struggling families in swing states such as Ohio and Missouri and included testimonials from high-profile supporters, including Kansas Gov. Kathleen Sebelius and New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson.

As Joe Gandelman notes at The Moderate Voice, Obama’s infomercial was quite different from anything we’ve seen before:

In 1964, then Pennsylvania Gov. William Scranton ran an extended commercial to try and unsuccessfully stop conservative Senator Barry Goldwater. And throughout his controversial and unsuccessful national career, third party candidate Lyndon LaRouche would buy big blocks of network time (one of the most notable I recall was where he kept having to push his slipping glasses back onto his face throughout his long, convoluted talk). While there were some glitzy political infomercials over the years, all too often they consisted of candidates looking into a camera and doing extended campaign speech without an audience to cheer them on.

The infomercial run by Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Barack Obama tonight was quite different.

Its production values were topflight. It had a strong biographical narrative. The opening scene is Oval Office-esque, which could reassure some voters wondering how they’d feel with Obama as President. Obama himself came across as pleasant, serious and reassuring. And he seemed to wear well: a problem with Al Gore in 2000 was that, after his debate performances, some pundits noted, people wondered “My God, if we vote for this guy it means we have to listen to him for FOUR YEARS!”

But other factors suggest that this infomercial — if it was watched by anyone other than those who already plan to vote for Obama, media types, and bloggers who want to write about it — might prove positive for the Obama campaign. (1) He focused on issues, particularly on the economy. (2) It was not an angry attack ad aimed at responding to Republican candidate Sen. John McCain but did answer some of McCain’s charges without seeming defensive. (3) The real life stories of voters worked and the people featured in these vignettes were highly symbolic in what they represented and the states in which they reside. They seemed to counter Joe The Plumber (except apparently none of them are seeking a country-western record contract..) (4) The live event at the end was masterful.

Indeed, the live event tied all the pre-packaged material with the perfect camera angles, the music, and an Obama talking into a camera in a room together. It also provided a final closing argument to his campaign.

After watching the piece, I’ve got to agree with Gandelman that the production values were top-notch — it made Ross Perot and his cue cards look amateurish by comparison. On substance ? Well, since I’m not inclined to agree with Obama on much of anything, I was understandably not impressed by the substance of his proposals. Of course, I wasn’t the intended audience, and neither were the people who’ve already decided to vote for Obama. This message was aimed squarely at the remaining undecideds and the battleground states.

The question is whether it’s going to have a major impact on the race, and we may not know that until Election Day.

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