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The Collective
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
By Dr. Steven Taylor

Here’s the latest from the McCain campaign’s “Obama is a celeb” campaign ads: (via TPM Election Central):

The problem I see with these ads is that while it does raise the experience question (McCain’s best attack on Obama) it does so in a rather cutesy way. If one’s goal is to make the other guy look unserious, is doing so in an unserious way the best way to go?

Beyond that, while I understand what people mean when they call Obama a “rock star” and a “celebrity” the bottom line is that any candidate who runs for the presidency is a celebrity of sorts, and there is no doubt that McCain specifically has built part of his political career on fame.1 The inference regarding Obama is that his fame is based on nothing other than superficial reasons. However, it seems the at some point the McCain folks need to go beyond just saying “he’s a celebrity!” and explain a) why that is a problem exactly, and b) what actual alternative that McCain offers.

To this point the McCain campaign seems to be, as I think I have noted before, is Dole II: The Return of the C.V.. It is as if McCain is saying “haven’t you guys seen my resume? It is so obvious that I am more qualified than this other guy! Do I really have to prove it?”

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  1. Hard won fame, to be sure, but fame nonetheless. []
Filed under: 2008 Campaign, US Politics | |
The views expressed in the comments are the sole responsibility of the person leaving those comments. They do not reflect the opinion of the author of PoliBlog, nor have they been vetted by the author.

5 Comments

  1. Maybe I’m just a cynic, but I don’t think your typical American voter is pining for substantive reasons behind why Obama is a celebrity. This characteristic is presented in a negative light, and as such will resonate with a significant percentage of voters without being told why it’s a bad thing.

    Just as Obama has run a campaign of “vote for me, because I’m (fill in the blank with anything that you like),” McCain is countering with “Obama’s got nuthin’” without having to specify all the things Obama doesn’t have.

    Comment by Boyd — Tuesday, August 12, 2008 @ 10:26 am

  2. Valid points.

    However, part of my point is that the Obama “vote for change” thing is working for him. Indeed, McCain couldn’t accuse him of being a celeb if people weren’t flocking to rallies and shouting O-BA-MA.

    However, McCain’s “he’s got nuthin’” isn’t exactly resulting in the same response.

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Tuesday, August 12, 2008 @ 10:42 am

  3. McCain may not want to push this too far.

    I specifically remember some of McCain’s gushing media supporters in 2000 referring to his following as that of a “rock star.”

    And I also remember his opponents pointing out how little he had actually accomplished and how little resemblance the position-taking he was building that campaign around bore to his actual record.

    Comment by MSS — Tuesday, August 12, 2008 @ 2:31 pm

  4. @MSS - Now that you mention it, I recall the McCain/”rock star” bit as well. I may need to take a little trip to Lexis/Nexis…

    Comment by Dr. Steven Taylor — Tuesday, August 12, 2008 @ 4:29 pm

  5. It’s still early in the campaign. Anything substantive that either side puts out right now will be forgotten by November. I don’t think you’ll see much meat on the bones of either candidate’s campaigns until at least mid September. The early part of the campaign is all about establishing images of yourself and your rival.

    As far as the gushing rallies of people chanting “O-BAM-A”, I’m not really sure what that will really translate into. I would be quite surprised if you found very many centrists or swing voters screaming and cheering and carrying on like that, and suspect that these people are the folks who would vote Democrat no matter who the candidate was.

    I’m also a bit of a skeptic about how big these crowds *really* are. In the 90’s when I was a cadet and an undergraduate student at Cleveland State University, there was a rally for Dennis Kucinich (whose district contains a part of Cleveland) on public square. It was a 20 minutes walk from CSU and I had a break between classes that coincided, so I thought I’d check it out.

    There were probably about 200 peole there, and among them maybe 40 or 50 who were cheering and boisterous and really quite full of energy. All in all, though, it was a pretty dull rally (which is not Obama-ish, but bear with me) and I walked away from it feeling like I had just been to the birthday party of a 5-year-old. My curiosity satisfied, I went back to class, then did my karate lessons, and ended up at home in time for the 11′o’clock news.

    I was rather surprised. The camera angles that were chosen, the sound bites that were captured - they took all of the energetic moments of a very boring hour and distilled them into 3 minutes of camera time. If one watched only the news, it would be very easy to think that thousands of cheering, raucous die-hard supporters had turned out to usher in the Age of Kucinich. The local news never mentioned the head count specifically; and so they got away with turning a crowd of 50 into 5000.

    I’m not sure that’s bias per se; I think they just tried to sensationalize the thing because sensational sells. In the long run it has the same effect as deliberately fudging the numbers, though.

    O-bam-a is very good at playing to the media’s love of the sensational, which we all know, but what I think might be getting lost in translation is what it really means. I think the cheering die hards are hardline Democrats. I don’t think we’ve seen or heard from the moderates yet, and I sure as heck don’t believe the polls. Let’s not forget that these are the same pollsters who put John Kerry 6 percentage points ahead of Bush the day before the election last year.

    And we think they can paint an accurate picture of what things are going to be like in a few months? They couldn’t even tell us what would happen Tuesday on Monday night.

    And I think if we’re going to go after McCain on substance in his ads, we need to do the same to Obama.

    A Wendy’s commercial from the 80’s has summarized this campaign quite better than I could have myself; the commercial consisted of a little old lady asking “Where’s the beef?!”

    I’d like to see some meat on the bones.

    Comment by Captain D — Tuesday, August 12, 2008 @ 9:02 pm

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