Saturday, October 11, 2008

Last licks in prime time

Sen. Barack Obama’s command of electronic media has been pretty well established throughout this long campaign. He’s outflanked opponents in the primaries and the general with savvy use of TV advertising and the Internet. But we’re about to see his biggest telegambit yet.

The Obama campaign announced earlier this week a big media buy of 30-minute blocks of prime-time programming time on Wednesday, Oct. 29, six days before the presidential election. The half-hour program will air on CBS and NBC broadcast networks, and — pending the World Series schedule — on the Fox News Channel.

It’s a bold but smart use of some of the millions in campaign contributions Obama’s campaign has received, and strategically it’s brilliant: This will be his last chance to make his case to the American people in an extended format, outside the confines of the 60-second ad, and without being interrupted by debate moderators who always seemed to pull the plug on his two minutes juust a little bit early.

And it’s got to be said: The Obama Prime-Time Special may well give him last licks on Sen. John McCain and the broad range of character attacks Team McCain has mounted against him in recent weeks. McCain may find a way to respond, but it’ll cost him dearly. Obama has already spread the field of the states in play, forcing McCain to fight hard in states once thought to be a lock for the Republicans. Countering Obama’s prime-time move with his own will require more good money thrown after bad, spending he really can’t afford.

It could backfire: The American people have been carpet-bombed by Obama campaign ads and literature for so long already; we half expect the debut of The Obama Channel any day now. Blowback in a fit of pique is possible.

But Obama’s prime-time plan should be that last spur to anyone still undecided, and it should finally end the talk of those information isolationists who still say they “don’t know anything about Obama.” If they come out from under the rocks under the ocean where they’ve been hiding for the last year and a half, these 21st-century Rip Van Winkles should discover the candidate they didn’t know about, six days before the election they won’t be able to avoid.
Image credit: CBS eye: Registered trademark of CBS Corporation. NBC logo: Registered trademark of National Broadcasting Company. Both images republished under fair use rationale: logos depicted are necessary to visually symbolize the respective broadcast networks' role in a national political event.

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