I watched the 30-minute program on Wednesday that was produced by the Obama campaign. I watched out of curiosity more than anything else. Since I can’t stand even 30-second advertising spots, I was expecting to be bored by what would essentially be a really long commercial. I even feared that it might be Obama giving one long speech. Although he gives good speeches, I am pretty much speeched out at this point.
It was not too bad though, not too cheesy, more along the lines of a PBS documentary, and had good production values. The cutting between the stories of families and his policy prescriptions was a good idea.
An infomercial on behalf of Mr. Obama was a smashing ratings success on Wednesday night, proving to be more popular than even the final game of the World Series — and last season’s finale of “American Idol.” The audience for Mr. Obama’s program far exceeded the expectations of television executives — and many political pundits who questioned whether Mr. Obama was engaging in overkill in buying a half hour on so many networks.
Mr. Obama’s 30-minute commercial, which played on seven networks, broadcast and cable, was seen by 33.55 million viewers, according to figures released by Nielsen Media Research.
“I was shocked by the number Obama was able to draw,” said Leslie Moonves, the chairman of CBS. “It’s just a stunning number.”
The early part was bit choppy and lacked continuity. I expected each family’s story to be followed up by his solution for the specific problem they faced but the first two stories did not quite do that. For example, the second vignette featured an old couple who thought that had enough money to retire but the husband had to go back to work at Wal-Mart in order to pay his wife’s medical bills. But Obama’s plans to deal with health care did not immediately follow but came later in the program.
The second half of the program seemed to be much better. The segue at the end to the live rally in Florida was a bit gimmicky but smoothly done and showed that the campaign is capable of tight scripting and scheduling, right down to the very second.
Would the program have changed any voter’s minds? I doubt it, and I expect the Obama camp does not expect to either. I suspect that the goal was to reassure those who have already decided to vote for him that they had made the right choice, to show Obama as a calm and thoughtful person, looking presidential. I think they succeeded in doing that.
One noteworthy feature of the program was that Obama did not mention John McCain even once. It was focused entirely on the problems faced by people and what he would do to address them. This quite a contrast with what the McCain-Palin duo has been doing recently. Their message has been highly Obama-focused, almost a non-stop attempt to portray Obama as a dangerous and mysterious and unknown and untested socialist-terrorist-radical, to which their supporters have added other weird things like saying he is a Muslim or even not an American. The complete nutcases have been trying to propagate even more bizarre stories, not worth retelling here.
McCain-Palin have even sunk to the character assassination of a respected Columbia University scholar Rashid Khalidi, using merely the fact that Khalidi is Palestinian to insinuate that he is a neo-Nazi. Josh Marshall and John Judis make the convincing case that the McCain-Palin campaign has to be the sleaziest and most despicable in modern American political history, which is saying a lot considering past campaigns run by the likes of Karl Rove and Lee Atwater.
It is also kind of a bizarre message at this late stage to try and raise such outlandish stories, considering that Obama has been running for president for about twenty months and has been under constant scrutiny. Will this strategy sway voters? I have no idea. I think it will energize the faithful and maybe cause some undecided people to perhaps vote for McCain.
I notice though that when McCain-Palin supporters are interviewed, after saying all these crazy things, they often end up saying that they could never vote for someone who was pro-choice. So ultimately, that is what is driving these people. They do not want a pro-choice president and are willing to say whatever is necessary to achieve their goal, even if it means lying. It is ironic that these people often call themselves ‘Christian values voters’.
The infomercial was narrated by Obama himself, and it struck me that he has a very good radio voice, smooth and modulated. When he retires from politics, he could have a successful second career doing voice-over narration for documentaries or as an interviewer on NPR.
POST SCRIPT: The Great Schlep
Sarah Silverman urges young Jewish people to go to Florida and canvass their grandparents to support Obama. (Language advisory)