October 30, 2008 in Nation/World

Obama airs nationwide infomercial

Democratic candidate buys prime-time airwaves
By Peter Slevin Washington Post
 
Associated Press photo

Sen. Barack Obama., D-Ill., speaks during a 30-minute infomercial broadcast during prime time on seven networks across the U.S. on Wednesday.
(Full-size photo)

SUNRISE, Fla. – Eager to cement his case for the presidency in voters’ minds before the campaign’s final frenetic weekend, Sen. Barack Obama blitzed the television airwaves and deployed one of the Democratic Party’s biggest names to deliver his message of change.

Obama’s campaign spent more than $3 million to air a 30-minute infomercial on seven networks simultaneously. He appeared at one Florida rally with his running mate, Sen. Joe Biden, and another with former President Bill Clinton as local news shows went live in this battleground state.

In a day capped with a taped interview on Comedy Central’s “The Daily Show,” the Illinois Democrat also cautioned his supporters against overconfidence despite his lead in most polls. He told them: “Don’t believe for a second this election’s over.”

In the 30-minute advertisement, which GOP nominee John McCain dismissed as a “gauzy, feel-good commercial,” Obama aimed to etch a portrait of a candidate who understands the economic toll the nation is enduring and who would turn the page on the current administration.

He introduced voters – a group carefully selected by his campaign that cut across geography and racial lines – and discussed their struggles with mortgage payments, access to health care and fears of a losing a job.

Obama offered details about his approach to issues such as housing, taxes, the Iraq war and energy policy. Between snippets of speeches and endorsements from colleagues, he spoke of his mother, who died of cancer, and said, “We’ve been talking about the same problems for decades and nothing is ever done to solve them.”

The program ended with two minutes of live footage of Obama speaking to 20,000 cheering supporters in South Florida, where he hopes to stockpile votes in a state in which polls show him with a slender advantage. As the national audience tuned in, Obama said, “In six days, we can choose hope over fear and unity over division. The promise of change over the power of the status quo.”

McCain was skeptical, likening Obama to an infomercial salesman.

“He’s offering government-run health care,” the Republican told a crowd in Riviera Beach, Fla., “an energy plan guaranteed to work without drilling … and an automatic wealth-spreader that folds neatly and fits under any bed.”

Obama scheduled his first public appearance with Clinton in the general election campaign for a rally timed for the 11 p.m. news. Clinton, the last Democratic presidential candidate to win Florida, backed him only after questioning his readiness during a bitter primary fight, but is now campaigning on his behalf in a string of contested states.

The timing of the Obama-Clinton appearance near Orlando is a tactic the campaign intends to repeat. An aide said a central goal is to maximize face time on local news broadcasts – and to cover as much ground as possible before he votes Tuesday in Chicago.

By the end of the day Saturday, Obama will have campaigned in eight states in four days, moving from North Carolina to Florida, then to Virginia and west to Missouri, Iowa and Indiana. On Saturday, he plans to start in Nevada and finish in Colorado.

“It’s campaign from dawn to dusk,” the aide said. “We’re campaigning as though we’re five points down, to the very end.”


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