It was a combination of biographical drama, celebration of the middle class, and simulated presidential address—all designed to reassure voters that Barack Obama is ready to be commander in chief and that he will fight relentlessly for everyday people if he is elected to America's highest office on Tuesday.
Obama's highly polished 30-minute political commercial, which ran on seven TV networks Wednesday night, featured the candidate as host, narrator, and star. It marked his final push to close the sale with voters who still have doubts about him and to motivate his supporters to actually get to the polls. Throughout, he emphasized his commitment to developing "an economy that honors the dignity of work" and pledged to battle for everyday people "every single day that I am in the White House."
The Democratic nominee focused on issues important to the middle class, such as tax cuts for every working family making less than $200,000 a year, improving health insurance, expanding educational opportunity, and freezing home foreclosures for 90 days amid the current financial crisis. And he linked his policy prescriptions to examples of real American families in key battleground states, such as Ohio and Pennsylvania, struggling to make ends meet.
Obama's ad—costing his campaign an estimated $3 million to $5 million for the air time—featured the candidate speaking directly into the camera as if he were the host of his own TV show. He introduced taped segments featuring Americans talking about their problems, followed by Obama making his pitch about how he would make their lives better. The campaign of Republican candidate John McCain blasted it as a "gauzy, feel-good infomercial."
The ad referred to how Obama's Kenyan father left the family when Obama was a boy and emphasized the role of Obama's white mother and grandparents in shaping his character and instilling in him the values of hard work, tolerance, and patriotism. It used the clever approach of making some of its political points by quoting the popular Democratic governors of key battleground states, including Tim Kaine of Virginia, Ted Strickland of Ohio, and Bill Richardson of New Mexico. Gov. Kathleen Sebelius of Kansas also praised Obama's middle-class roots in a reference to his grandparents' background in Kansas.
But while Obama on Wednesday night was in soft focus and mostly positive, many of his other TV ads in the battleground states were sharply negative. They attacked McCain as an out-of-touch advocate of the same unpopular policies as President George W. Bush.
The half-hour buy also offered an insight into Obama's huge financial advantage over McCain. The Democratic candidate rejected public funding and has raised more than $600 million for his campaign. McCain accepted public funds and is limited to $84 million for the general election.
Meanwhile, John McCain and his running mate, Sarah Palin, continued to press their own version of the Obama story—a decidedly harsh one. They said in separate speeches and their TV ads that Obama isn't ready to be commander in chief, is a tax-and-spend liberal who would make the economy worse and would shift the country dramatically to the left in conjunction with the Democratic-controlled Congress.