Monday, August 11, 2008


'Obama Fatigue' Plays into McCain's Hands

It didn't happen with JFK, maybe it happened to Tony Blair, but it definitely seems to have happened to Barack Obama. What? Exposure fatigue. The received wisdom among political marketeers is not much different from any kind of marketing: you can't have too much good publicity. But this seems not to be the case with Obama. The ST ran a story yesterday about Obama fatigue.

With the Democratic Convention coming up on 25th August in Denver, Obama strategists must be getting just a little worried. Their man has beeen basking in adulation for much of the last seven months, moving into overdrive when he visited Europe and did that 200,000 audience gig in Berlin. But whilst euphoric coverage for other kinds of celebrities, like rock stars and Hollywood A listers, seems to build with impunity, it seems there is a limit for politicians. A Pew survey discovered that over half of non aligned voters felt they had been 'hearing too much' about Obama. McCain has weighed in cleverly by comparing Ombama to Paris Hilton and Moses and exploiting xenophobic US anti-European feelings. 22% in the same survey said they had been forming a less favourable view of him recently.

The result has been a narrowing of the opinion poll gap to an average of just one per cent in Obama's favour. While some Democrats, not to mention European liberals have him more or less elected already, US voters have been finding it not so easy to digest the daily helpings of the Illinois Senator dished up by their love-struck media. Oddly, perhaps, for a child brought up by a single mother, Obama has been characterised as elitist and arrogant and the smart late-night chat show hosts are finding resonance for their jibes that he is too self obsessed.

The Economist's columnist,Lexington, suggests the Democrats have erred in not focusing on Bush's record rather than rooting like cheer leaders for their man. Obama has everything going for him in theory: 80% of Americans think the country is heading in the wrong direction; the economy is causing much concern; Obama's campaign is much slicker than McCain's; and the younger man has more campaign funds. Yet in practice the race is not currently going his way. Lexington concludes:

The Obama machine also remains formidable: it is impossible to wander around American cities these days without coming across enthusiastic young canvassers. But Mr Obama needs to reframe the election so that it is less about him and more about the issues. And he needs to abandon the rhetorical high ground for the nitty-gritty of policy. Otherwise the general election could prove to be the second coronation in a row, after Hillary’s implosion, that has ended with a surprise.

Setting aside whether the Sunday Times is an entirely objective source of news on US politics, I think the date of the election - nearly 3 months' ahead in early November - might be relevant. Is it just possible the Obama might not wish to peak too early? The Republican machine is already showing what it will do and I would have thought that waiting until he is actually formally nominated might also have some bearing on the strategy. We will see.
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