A few thoughts on last night’s 30-minute infomercial:
– I think it was remarkably bulletproof. McCain’s campaign was hoping for 30 minutes of shiny, flashy Obama, and what they got was a guy in a small office narrating the stories of other Americans. It’s hard to attack that without looking like you’re also attacking Miss Sanchez, the teacher who works nights, takes classes, and raises kids on her own. One of the best moments of the Democratic Convention was the last night, when five or six regular Americans got up for about five minutes each and told their story. (Remember the guy named Barney Smith who said, “I want a president who puts Barney Smith ahead of Smith Barney,” and the crowd went nuts?) Those speeches never made the TV, other than CSPAN, but their spirit was captured pretty effectively here.
– Surprisingly non-partisan. Obama never mentioned Bush or McCain once. Somehow, he never had to. The stories of people struggling with retirement and health care spoke for themselves, and everyone already knows the whos and the whys of the last eight years.
– I think it passed the living room test. Part of electing a president is deciding, do I want this person on my TV, in my living room, for the next four years? The primetime address– the reference to “the state of our Union”– probably helped a lot of undecideds to visualize that better. I think Obama realizes that for a lot of voters, the ones who want to vote Democrat but for some vague reason aren’t all the way there yet, the last wall between him and their vote is them being able to see him plausibly in their minds as president.
– The personal narrative will resonate with a lot of people. I’ve always thought the strongest part of Obama’s message is the story of his four parents– his father’s absence, his grandparents’ presence, his mother teaching him what it means to be an American, and later fretting over insurance forms on her death bed. In many respects, Obama’s perhaps unconventional family represents the conventional heart of America in a profoundly authentic way.
– The live cut was pretty seamless, if newsless. I thought it would be Bill Clinton and Obama together, kind of a passing of the economic competence torch. As it was though, in front of a charged crowd in Florida, it worked.
– If the ratings come in at anything near 30 million viewers, I think you’ll see something similar to a small convention bounce. The whole thing was, basically, a mini convention. Or the polls could stay flat, which means the bounce Obama gets out of this will offset whatever tightening of the race McCain will naturally receive. Either way, McCain needs to spend every second between now and Tuesday closing the gap and this ad really, really helps run out the clock.
And just in case you missed it: