Monday, September 01, 2008

Advantage Obama: less coverage after Denver

One discernible pattern this year: after every major Obama success (Iowa, running the table in February, the Philadelphia Speech, Berlin), there is a period of intense media adoration, followed predictably by a fairly severe backlash against the Media stoked by Obama's opponents.

Think about:
  • The backlash against MSNBC's coverage after Iowa.
  • The Saturday Night Live attacks at the end of February.
  • The "Obama gives a good speech, but doesn't do enough shots" attack before the Pennsylvania primary.
  • The celebrity attack after Berlin.
All four of these attacks proved to be fairly damaging in the short term, leading in some measure to Obama's defeats in New Hampshire, Ohio and Texas, Pennsylvania and the narrowing of head-to-head polls against McCain in August.

Now consider what happened last week in Denver. Obama delivered another speech that was roundly praised and lauded for clearing the extremely high expectations that had been set. As Chuck Todd said, the Republicans didn't even know how to respond.

Good lord, even Pat Buchanan was impressed.

In the past, what would have followed was a media echo chamber fueled narrative praising Obama to the high heavens. That, of course, would be followed by some sort of McCain crybabying about the media's fawning, and then an attack undescoring this theme.

Except this time it didn't happen.

By trying to be oh-so-clever and stepping on Obama's speech, the McCain campaign did succesfully turn the narrative towards themselves, but in doing so they missed out on exploiting their favorite topic: not Obama's speeches, but rather the coverage of those speeches.

Obama gains by directly appealing to a record 38 million people watching his speech--and he gains because McCain failed to mount their Rovian attack on that strength.

Now the idea of "Obama fatigue" has been debated, and largely debunked. But, by going for the shock value of the Palin pick, the McCain camp sacrificed their favorite (and possibly most succesful) attack to date.

And that attack has nothing to do with "experience."

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