early and often

Obama to Ruthlessly Dominate the Airwaves Tonight With Touching, Patriotic Infomercial

Bruce Ratner

Tonight at 8 p.m., Barack Obama will air a half-hour campaign infomercial on NBC, CBS, Fox, Univision, MSNBC, BET, and TV One. While many see this as a smart idea for Obama, others aren’t so sure. The View’s Elisabeth Hasselbeck, for one, called it “repulsive” that while Americans are hurting in this economy Obama would spend $3 million (of the money Americans donated to his campaign) on such a thing. Others think there’s potential for Obama to appear conceited and pushy by buying up so much TV that we have to watch, as if most people didn’t have 650 other channels at their disposal, or, you know, other activities in life that don’t involve television. So on balance, how effective will the prime-time ad actually be, and what can we expect?

• Jim Rutenberg saw a minute-long trailer of tonight’s infomercial, which he calls “the ultimate reflection of Mr. Obama’s spending flexibility.” The trailer is “heavy in strings, flags, presidential imagery and some Americana filmed by Davis Guggenheim, whose father was the campaign documentarian of Robert F. Kennedy.” The program itself will features stories of struggling Americans, and Obama will recount his mother’s battle with ovarian cancer. [NYT]

• Jeanne Cummings writes that, though “[s]everal political image makers, both Republicans and Democrats, say it’s a smart move,” Obama has previously demonstrated “a weakness for extravagance.” While it may not attract many undecided voters, and “may irritate people by interrupting their regular television viewing habits,” strategists say “the real benefit to Obama could be simply the attention the infomercial draws from the mainstream press.” [Politico]

• Steve Benen really doesn’t see what the hubbub coming from the likes of Hasselbeck is all about. “Instead of a 30-second spot filled with soundbites, Obama is going to offer depth and detail in a 30-minute program,” which doesn’t seem that “repulsive.” [Political Animal/Washington Monthly]

• George Stephanopolous thinks Obama will “likely be repeating the same things he has said before but may reach … voters who haven’t been paying that much attention to the campaign.” [George’s Bottom Line/ABC News]

• Chuck Todd and friends say that the TV special isn’t “an automatic homerun,” and Obama risks looking “presumptuous,” but “when is the last time that Obama has flubbed a big speech?” [First Read/MSNBC]

• Ben Smith refutes the “Republican talking point,” pushed by McCain yesterday, that the program “forced Fox and Major League Baseball to delay the start of a World Series game.” [Politico]

• Rick Klein and Hope Ditto believe that, while the infomercial could be just a “silly waste of money,” it could also be a valuable “fireside chat moment” wherein Obama can “appear presidential before he actually might get a chance to be president.” [Note/ABC News]

• Thomas Schaller convenes a round table of Democratic strategists, who discuss the commercial. Steve McMahon says it’ll give people the chance to see “what it would look like and what it would feel like if Barack Obama became president of the United States,” and Laurie Moskowitz agrees that having Obama “out there looking so presidential” and letting undecideds feel “comfortable with him” is “a great tactic and a luxury.” [Salon]

• Susan Davis reports that the McCain campaign is mocking Obama’s infomercial in an e-mail that reads “If infomercials were a winning campaign strategy, Billy Mays would be President of the United States and every American would own Mighty Putty or Oxi Clean.” They’ll also be airing an ad following the program that downplays Obama’s “fancy speeches, grand promises and TV special.” [Washington Wire/WSJ]

• Jason Zengerle notes, however, that the last line in the McCain response ad says Obama is “not ready … yet,” as if the McCain campaign is “acknowledging voters’ warm feelings toward Obama and even sort of agreeing with them, with the crucial caveat that he thinks Obama still needs some seasoning.” [Plank/New Republic]

‘The Barack Obama Show’ [NYM]
What Obama Needs to Know for His Pre-Election Infomercial

For a complete and regularly updated guide to presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain — from First Love to Most Embarrassing Gaffe — read the 2008 Electopedia.

Obama to Ruthlessly Dominate the Airwaves Tonight With Touching, Patriotic Infomercial