A solid pitch to the public

Obama's TV infomercial avoided negativity, stressed a return to past values.

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Democrat Barack Obama talks with a family in an image from his 30-minute campaign ad that ran on television last night.The commercial blended prerecorded views of Obama speaking in different settings with scenes of Americans discussing economic and health-care troubles, and testimonials to Obama by politicians, business executives and others.

John McCain has been speaking for a few days about Barack Obama's half-hour presentation last night, derisively calling it an "infomercial."

McCain should be so lucky as to have such a classic infomercial behind his candidacy.

With coffers overflowing, Obama spent about $100,000 a minute in prime time over CBS, Fox, NBC and some cable channels to make his case. It was infomercial all the way, designed not to win prizes at a film festival but to sell the product: Barack Obama as president.

I'll deal with the economy, he said. I'll improve our energy situation. I'll help young people get to college.

But wait, there's more: "I will open the doors of government and ask you to be involved in your own democracy again."

The presentation had all the trappings of an infomercial without the shrill hucksterism, though some of the supposedly soothing background music might have put folks on edge.

It had dramatic stories that outlined people's problems. Not unsightly waxy buildup or vegetables that are hard to cut, but, as one white suburban football mom in Missouri told it, the "worry and chaos of everyday living."

Or, as a Latino mother from Albuquerque, N.M., described it, the constant effort "financially to keep your head above water so you don't feel like you're drowning all the time."

It had third-party endorsements, the most effective coming not from fellow politicians but from the CEO of Google and a retired brigadier general.

And at the end, a call to action - not to order now while operators are standing by, but live, from the critical swing state of Florida: "Knock on some doors for me, make some calls with me. . . . Find out where to vote, cast your ballot for me."

Sure, as president, he'll work to cure what ails you, the Democratic candidate said, ticking off various program proposals. But he also out-McCained McCain, urging viewers not just to fight with him, but to take responsibility for their own lives.

There was barely a whisper of negativity in the half hour, but the almost Palinesque call to self-reliance that ran through the show from start to finish undercut both the GOP vice presidential candidate's and McCain's complaints that Obama's big-government philosophy borders on socialism.

"I feel like we're all in the same boat," said a struggling Ford worker in Kentucky. "We all got to pull together, and if we don't, we're going to lose America as we've once known it."

Without a wild-eyed college kid in sight, the youthful candidate made his pitch not for change into some newfangled tomorrow, but back to the values of the past.

He certainly lost nothing from the infomercial, and it's likely he found more than a few buyers.

 


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