The Importance of “Selling Obama”

Tonight’s half hour program ‘presented by BarackObama’ is more than a ‘luxury’ as some have stated (or as Elizabeth Hasslback commented – ‘repulsive’). Some have even argued that it is a risk.  However, this program may go down as single most memorable moment of the campaign.  Not because he will have moved mountains and it’s impact will not be fully realized until after November 4th.

In 1980, Ronald Reagan was trailing Jimmy Carter by 8 points in October.  They had one debate on October 29th (same as tonight).  On November 4th(same date as this year),  Reagan won by 10 points.  With that debate, Reagan was able to sell the American people on his vision and that he was a safe choice for president.  Sound familiar. 

Leaving out the irony of dates, Obama has the same chance tonight.  His campaign is going well, but some have argued that he hasn’t closed the ‘deal’ yet.  Tonight he gets 1/2 hour to make his case.  No direct rebuttal time by the GOP and very little chance of McCain doing the same (although, I wouldn’t be surprised for him to try to pull that rabbit out of the hat).  I’ve been an absolute avid poll watcher. I’ve analyzed every little tick and campaign event.  What is clear is that every time that Obama has a chance to get in front of the American public – he does and extraordinary job of building support. The Democratic Convention and debates are two prime examples.  People want to believe in him and he actually has the qualities one looks to believe in.  However, so much time by the McCain campaign has been spent attacking his character – his campaign gets distorted.

The polls won’t pick up any change in the support levels until at least Friday.  Most likely it won’t be until Sunday. However, this will make a difference.  I do not believe that it will be an 18 point swing for Obama, but it will be 2-3 points.  This will be enough to swing the toss-ups strongly into Obama’s column.  Obama has a knack for getting a bump when he need it.  Tonight will probably bring the same.

Some argue there is risk in doing this event.  Perhaps, but the risk is minimal and the reward could be great.  Some argue that this isn’t 1980 – the candidates are better known, there isn’t an incumbent in office, people won’t watch, and there are many sources for information.  However, because of all the media attention, it sometimes difficult to see who these candidates are – not filtered with the opinion of their rival.  Tonight, Obama will present himself how he’d present himself in the White House – that, alone, will be reassuring.  Beyond that, the ability to consume at least one, if not two, news cycles will be critical in a campaign where McCain needs the attention every day. Finally, the intial network audience might be minimal, however, the replays on youtube and the news sites will be continuous.

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