This one's more effectiveComplications Ensue
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Friday, August 22, 2008

This one is more effective than yesterday's Obama attack ad. Note how well they tie together a multitude of McCain slips: being photographed in a golf cart; saying you're not rich till you have five million bucks; not knowing how many houses you own.

A lot of people had been wondering why Obama wasn't jumping on every McCain gaffe. As someone or other pointed out yesterday, they have been waiting until they can build up a "narrative" by combining them. McCain can brush off an individual mistake -- everyone says dumb things. (Wait until Biden's the VP and see what comes out of his mouth.) But one after another, and people put together the pattern. You don't want to use up the gaffes; you want to build something out of them.

As always, it's about the story you're telling.

Note how the "out of touch" accusation cuts two ways. The ad, and its imagery, imply that McCain is an old, tired man. Heck, he probably couldn't remember how many houses he had even if he didn't have seven! Expect to see them continue to attack McCain for being old and forgetful while pretending they're attacking him for something else. Expect to see a lot of language like "out of touch" or "we think he's lost his bearings," which sounds a lot like "we think he's lost his marbles."

(Of course, the reason he couldn't answer the question is because some of them are owned by a trust, and some by his wife, so it's complicated. But attempting to address that would only open up a can of worms. His wife owns his houses? He has companies that own his stuff? What the hell?)

The McCain response has been twofold. One, jump up and down and say "P.O.W.! P.O.W.! P.O.W.!" over and over, until it becomes a Rudy-esque mantra: subject, verb, P.O.W. Second, bring up the Rezko and Ayers stuff again.

It's foolish to bring up the P.O.W. thing; the more you push it, the less impressed people will be, and they'll dare to ask why his being imprisoned 40 years ago excuses him from criticism.

The Rezko/Ayers stuff might be a little more effective, but they were going to bring that stuff out sooner or later. Here they've had to bring it out a few days before the convention, when it will get swamped. But it didn't tarnish Obama much when the Democrats brought it out against Obama, and now it's old news; for some reason, America only values new news. McCain is getting a similar pass for his involvement in the Keating 5, and the Vicki Isenman mystery: old news. You can run ads about Rezko and Ayers, and they will, but the media are not going to talk about it unless you can find a new angle.

But worse, it doesn't work with the story they're trying to tell about Obama. The past few weeks the Republicans have been painting Obama as an airhead celebrity. Now they're implying that he's corrupt. Either you're an airhead, or you're a dirty politician, but if you're dirty, you obviously know what's going on, and if you're an airhead, you're not responsible.

The McCain stuff sticks, because it fits the narrative the Obama campaign has been pushing: McCain 2008 is not the McCain of 2000. He's sold his principles. He was a maverick; now he's ready for the glue factory. He's tired and forgetful and cranky. In short: he's lost it.

Our brains seem to absorb information much better as part of a story than as an accumulation of facts; whenever you can make facts into a story, it will make a stronger impression.



Nice observations and the ad is effective. I kinda wish I was in the US these days. I feel like I'm standing on the sidelines watching a great race.

By Blogger WP, at 9:36 PM  

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