The McCain Online Video Machine

DannyG | August 28, 2008
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By K. Daniel Glover

Over the past month, John McCain's online shop has churned out video after video aimed at Barack Obama. Most are television ads, while others were made just for the Internet. All of them have hit their mark dead center. Let's go to the tape for a recap: -- July 21, "Pump": Asks who is to blame for higher gas prices and answers the question with background voices chanting "Obama! Obama!" The kicker: "Don't hope for more energy; vote for it." -- July 26, "Troops": Criticizes Obama foreign affairs and defense policy record and blasts him for playing basketball while abroad but not visiting U.S. troops when cameras were banned. The kicker: "John McCain is always there for our troops." -- July 30, "Celeb": Calls Obama "the biggest celebrity in the world," comparing him with Paris Hilton and Britney Spears, but suggests he isn't ready to lead. The kicker: "Higher taxes, more foreign oil -- that's the real Obama." -- Aug. 1, "The One": Internet video that mocks the messianic feel of the Obama campaign and Obama's own grandiose statements about being "a symbol of America returning to our best traditions." Moses imagery included. A sequel posted online Aug. 21 took a similar satirical approach to the Democratic convention. -- Aug. 12, "Fan Club": A faux invitation to join the Obama fan club, with "amazing" perks that include higher taxes. The kicker: "We know he doesn't have much experience and isn't ready to lead. But that doesn't mean he isn't dreamy!" And then came this flurry of ads over the past few days, right as Democrats gathered in Denver to nominate Obama: -- Aug. 22, "Higher": Portrays Obama as a celebrity who doesn't understand the impact that new taxes have on the family budget. The kicker: "He's ready to raise your taxes -- but not ready to lead." -- Aug. 22, "Joe Biden On Barack Obama": Resurrected Biden's criticisms of Obama right as word broke that Biden was Obama's pick for vice president -- and the praise that Biden bestowed on McCain. Great Obama reaction visual. -- Aug. 22, "Passed Over": Accuses Obama of not picking Hillary Clinton as his vice president because she spoke the truth about him in the Democratic primary. The kicker: "The truth hurt, and Obama didn't like it." -- Aug. 22, "3 AM": Borrows Clinton's much-discussed ad footage that suggests Obama lacks the experience to lead in an emergency. The kicker: "Hillary's right." -- Aug. 22, "Debra": Loyal Clinton supporter vows to vote for McCain and tells other Democrats it's OK to do the same. The kicker: "Now [McCain's] the one with the experience and judgment." -- Aug. 26, "Tiny": Highlights Obama's rhetoric downplaying the threat that Iran poses to the United States and Israel. The kicker: "Obama, dangerously unprepared to be president." The latest Internet video was released yesterday. Dubbed "Remote Control," it shows scenes of dangers in the world as leading Democrats criticize Obama's foreign policy views and as Obama professes himself to be "a believer in knowing what you're doing." The ad is getting rave reviews. Each video is powerful of its own right for different reasons -- the appeals to popular culture, the background chants of "O-ba-ma, O-ba-ma," the perfect timing, and the use of Obama's own words and those of his allies. But the videos are even more powerful as a package. They are driving home a central theme -- that Obama isn't "ready to lead." Because he isn't ready to lead, the ads say, Americans can expect less national security, higher taxes, a continuing energy crisis, and a dangerous obsession with celebrity over substance. The power of that message is evident in the polls: They tightened as the videos were released, and the traditional convention bounce has been slow to bounce Obama's way this week. Obama's campaign hasn't exactly been silent as McCain's online machine churned out its videos. The Obama team, in fact, produced far more videos during the past month, and some of them have been equally good. Obama has attacked McCain as a Washington insider, an economic ignoramus, an ally of the rich and powerful, and a yes man to President Bush. Obama has targeted narrowly focused issue ads at potential swing states. And his staff has rebutted McCain's ads. Like McCain, Obama also has been quick to pull the online video trigger for maximum impact. When McCain couldn't answer a reporter's question about how many homes he owns, Obama's team immediately released an ad titled "Seven" that pegs McCain as out of touch with the common man because he owns seven homes worth $13 million. The ad closes with a picture of the White House and this message: "And here's one house America can't afford to let John McCain move into." A companion Obama Web video, meanwhile, asked Philadelphians on the street how many homes they would have to own before they lost track. But McCain's online videos have packed more punch, created more buzz and forced the Obama campaign to play defense with counter-attacks. Even when Obama scored points after the flap over McCain's multiple homes, McCain quickly answered with an ad that turned the conversation to Obama's wealth and ethics. And today, McCain took the high road, releasing an ad where he congratulates Obama for becoming the first black man nominated as a presidential candidate. "Weirdly, McCain seems to have taken a lead in the rapid-delivery YouTube department," Instapundit Glenn Reynolds concluded after McCain released his "Remote Control" video. "I wouldn't have predicted that. The Obama stuff, meanwhile remains in this vein. It's well-produced and star-studded, but it's not hitting the key points."