Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Is McCain campaign’s “Chicago” television spot too technical for nation?

Those of us who pay attention to the activity surrounding City Hall and the Statehouse in Springfield knew this ad would come. Republican presidential nominee John McCain wants us to think of his political opponent as just another Chicago hack.

Yet after seeing the campaign advertising spot that the McCain campaign began airing this week, I can’t help but think the “damage” is minimal.

EITHER THAT, OR the McCain people are holding back something. In which case, I’d wonder, “why wait?” They should hit Obama now with everything they have to try to knock him out of the running – unless they secretly want to lose on Nov. 4.

The ad in question attempts to link Obama by association with four political people known to all of us in Chicago.

Following is the text of the ad:

Announcer: “Barack Obama. Born of the corrupt Chicago political machine.”

Obama’s voice: “In terms of my toughness, look, first of all, I come from Chicago.”

GRAPHICS THEN IDENTIFY former Commerce Secretary and mayoral brother William Daley as Obama’s “economic adviser,” political fundraiser convicted on corruption charges Antoin Rezko as Obama’s “money man,” retiring state Senate President Emil Jones as his “political godfather” and Gov. Rod Blagojevich as “his governor, with a legacy of federal and state investigations.”

Announcer: “With friends like that, Obama is not ready to lead.”

Perhaps I’d take this ad more seriously if there was something specific about it, even though I realize that 30 seconds is minimal time and the key to an effective campaign advertisement on television is not to drown out the general theme with a whole lot of details.

The reason I question the point of this ad is that I wonder who outside of the geeky people (such as myself) who pay attention to Chicago politics have ever heard of any of these people?

I DON’T CONSIDER Emil Jones to be a household name in Illinois, let alone across the United States. Rezko and Blagojevich are probably to the people outside of Illinois just a couple of ethnic names that they don’t even try to pronounce correctly.

And while some people might remember Bill Daley as the guy who passed out from heat exhaustion when his cabinet appointment was announced, I wonder if the majority of people in this country will just draw a blank when seeing his face and reading his name?

In short, I wonder if this spot is too technical, requiring people to have too much background knowledge in their minds about the state of Chicago government.

This ad might very well work in downstate Illinois, where the Republican majorities in the 96 counties of this state that resent being affiliated with Chicago could use it to stir up trouble and boost the vote.

THE ONLY PROBLEM with that strategy is that the Chicago vote in support of Obama is going to drown out the rural Illinois vote so much that any extensive use of this spot in downstate Illinois would be perceived as a waste of campaign cash by the McCain campaign.

And as far as getting to people outside of Illinois?

I wonder if most people are just going to see this as a “laundry list” of names of political people they don’t know, and will just move on mentally to the next commercial (probably a beer ad with blonde bikini babes bouncing about).

Now I realize that some people are just going to see the phrase “Chicago politics” and the name “Obama” linked together and will draw a negative connotation from that combination.

THIS AD IS meant to make Obama out to be a political hack (which anyone who has ever dealt with the guy knows is a ridiculous concept). But if that is the sole attempt, then the ad is a waste of campaign cash anyways.

The kind of people who are going to resent the Obama campaign because it supports a candidate from corrupt Chicago (the “City of Sin,” as it was referred to in a re-issue of Jack MacPhaul’s book about the old days of Chicago journalism, “Deadlines and Monkeyshines”) already knew he was from Chicago.

The McCain campaign spending money to remind us of nothing more than the fact that Obama considers himself a Chicagoan (he has lived the bulk of his adult life there, after being born and raised in Honolulu) just stirs up opposition among people who were never going to vote for Obama. I don’t see anyone being swayed by this campaign ad.

They might as well spend money to remind us that Obama is bi-racial. Or at the very least, non-Anglo. (Perhaps that will be the point of the future McCain campaign ads that remind us of the Rev. Wright and his raucous religious rhetoric).

NOW I’M NOT saying it can’t be done to try to bring up remnants of Obama’s record as a local politico (nearly eight years in the state Legislature will create one) and use it in campaign ads.

But they would have to come up with something specific to be tied to Obama’s name.

Thus far, the best that the Republican attack dogs have come up with is that often-repeated claim that he voted “present” 130 times (during an eight-year period when he was asked to consider more than 4,000 bills). When looked at objectively, it is a “nothing” charge.

They wish they could have come up with something on Rezko and Obama, other than to claim that the two men knew each other (Rezko made it a point to know everybody in Chicago politics).

THE SLEAZY DETAILS that came out during his corruption trial caused more problems for Blagojevich than they did for Obama, which means Republican political operatives will be able to haul out the dirt in 2010 (when Blagojevich seeks re-election).

What I am curious to see is the final week of the campaign.

It will be in late October when Rezko is sentenced, and there’s always the chance that something will come out during the sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court that could allow the GOP campaigners to resurrect Obama’s name.

At the very least, I envision a spot that says Obama’s “good political friend and advisor” is now in prison. It would be a cheap shot, but likely contain a more powerful punch than the current “Chicago” campaign ad does.


EDITOR’S NOTES: Barack Obama responded to the McCain “Chicago” campaign ad (http://www.swamppolitics.com/news/politics/blog/2008/09/mccain_camp_runs_ad_on_obamas.html) by reminding us that the senator from Arizona was provided $2 million by lobbyist interests who wanted less regulation of Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae – both of which had to be bailed out financially by the federal government.

Democrats put their spin on the “Chicago” (http://progressillinois.com/2008/09/22/chicago-angle) ad, while the Republicans use their favorite newsgathering organization to put their own spin on the spot (http://elections.foxnews.com/2008/09/22/hard-hitting-mccain-ad-links-obama-to-chicago-political-machine/).

If John McCain truly believes that everything about Chicago is inherently corrupt, is he willing (http://latimesblogs.latimes.com/washington/2008/09/sarah-palin-m-1.html) to give back any of the $4 million he raised from our city’s residents at a fundraiser two weeks ago?

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