Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Most intense presidential TV ad seen by Chicagoans intended for Hoosiers

Chicago television stations lost out this year on the big bucks that usually come from high-level political campaigns that need to buy airtime to run partisan commercials to promote their campaigns.

Until Monday, that is.

BARACK OBAMA’S VICTORY in Illinois’ presidential primary was such an obvious conclusion in the Feb. 5 primary that he didn’t buy much airtime. Neither did Hillary R. Clinton. Outside of the Chicago area, television stations in places like Champaign, Springfield, Peoria and Carbondale noted they got no campaign ad money.

So it was a trip to see the Obama campaign flood the Chicago airwaves Monday with its new spot that bashes Clinton’s support for a temporary repeal of the federal gasoline tax (Obama, in the ad, calls it a, “short-term quick fix”).

But two things struck me as unusual about the ad.

First, it is autobiographical in nature. While Obama’s attack provides a snippet, most of the spot tells people about whom Obama is. It lets them know of the social work he did after graduating from Columbia University and moving to Chicago. It even works in the phrase “steel workers,” as in Obama worked to help out-of-work steel workers in their time of need when their jobs first disappeared.

BIOGRAPHICAL ADS USUALLY are the first thing a campaign airs. It had the feel of a spot that should have run a year ago, or at least three weeks ago when campaign activity in Indiana stepped up a notch in intensity. Running the ad the night before Election Day reeks of desperation, admitting that they had failed in letting Hoosiers know just who their candidate is.

The other thing is that it is an ad focused on the portion of the Chicago area that most people like to pretend isn’t really a part of the urban area.

Lake County, with a population of just under 500,000, is only about 6 percent of the Chicago area. Yet all of the nearly 9 million people who live in the Greater Chicago area got to see the Indiana-intended attack on Clinton.

We here in Chicago got to see more Obama-connected advertising for a campaign we can’t even vote in, than we did for the Election Day that was ours.


EDITOR’S NOTE: This is not the only campaign ad airing in the final hours of the Indiana presidential primary (http://thecaucus.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/05/05/obama-strikes-back-with-negative-ad/). It is, however, the most autobiographical. The others are more straight-forward (and traditional) attack ads.

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