The final innings of Game 5 of the World Series might not have begun until 8:30 ET, but Barack Obama managed to hit one over the outfield wall in his 30-minute infomercial that preceded that first pitch. Regardless of what he said earlier this week about it being his closing argument, tonight was clearly Obama's closing argument to the American people that they should vote for him. Some short observations of mine are after the jump.
First off, I was stunned by the production values of this commercial. Maybe I'm jaded due to the relatively poor production values of most of the McCain commercials these days — can they have more minor-key music, scary voiceovers and sepia tones? — but these were not digital video productions, these were filmed, as far as I could tell. The physical transitions were good, the narrative structure was sound and despite my personal inability to listen to long speeches without distraction, I was actually counting the minutes while thinking to myself, "That much time has passed already?" This was not thrown together on a small budget, and this was no Lifetime roundtable with women on a soundstage (as Clinton's primary ad buy was) or Ross Perot's mug on screen yapping at me for thirty minutes about the number of chickens on Arkansas. This was really well done. When the speech ended and Keith Olbermann said that Obama's buy on the 7 networks cost him about $5 million dollars, I thought two things: first, that the commercial itself had to cost between $500,000 and $1 million to make; and second, that the sheer amount of earned media that he was going to get out of it was easily going to match that. It's practically the functional equivalent of getting a Bat-signal and projecting a logo on the moon — maybe you don't look at the moon that night, but, damn, are you gonna hear about it tomorrow. Other things I noticed: Obama shared the screen with a who's-who of prominent Dems in swing states, from Ohio Governor Ted Strickland to Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill to New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson and Virginia Governor Tim Kaine. He hit up teachers, unionized factory workers, and retirees stuck working at Wal-Mart in his "real Americans" vignettes and managed to talk about all the major areas of domestic policy disagreement with John McCain without anyone really noticing that he all but ignored social issues that tend to divide Americans. This wasn't a pitch to Democrats but an effort to convince the truly undecided voters to vote for him, particularly the undecided voters in swing states. And, fine, the whole thing was deliberately intended to tug at our heartstrings while not being too sugar-y sweet to turn off the men among us. And, I'll be damned if the Obama campaign's female focus group members didn't bust out weeping in their sessions. I'll admit, between some raging hormones and some recent family tragedy, the little old lady with arthritis in her hands and Obama's comment that his mother's death from cancer "felt arbitrary" choked me the hell up. I don't have to call to know my mom probably teared up more than a little. Whatever, I also cry when the Beast dies in Beauty and the Beast, at the end of Ghost and during the funeral scene in Steel Magnolias. I'm a complete sap when it comes to grief and death. On policy stuff, I mostly thought that it was the same talking points from the debate, highlighted by the text to the right of the screen: tax cuts; spending cuts; foreclosure moratorium; withdrawing from Iraq; keep your health insurance if you like it. But, then, I have been paying attention to this stuff obsessively for months, so it wasn't new information for me. It helped to highlight those parts of his economic plans that have been distorted recently by the McCain campaign and counter charges that he was all style and no substance, so I appreciate that it was necessary and I thought the narrative transitions were managed well enough for it not to seem jarring or disjointed. Anyway, those were my thoughts. What were yours?