Election 2008

Al Goldis/AP

Obama Hopes to Share the RNC Spotlight

September 03, 2008 03:26 PM
by Liz Colville
With a first-time appearance on Fox News and other campaign events, Senator Barack Obama of Illinois is hoping to garner some attention during the Republican National Convention.

Facing ‘The O’Reilly Factor’

Obama will appear on “The O’Reilly Factor,” hosted by Bill O’Reilly, on Fox News Thursday night, preceding Ariz. Sen. McCain’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention.

The news came around the time that Sen. McCain cancelled his scheduled appearance on CNN’s “Larry King Live” this week after one of his aides was barraged with questions about his selected running mate, Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, by Campbell Brown during Brown’s CNN program, “Election Central.”

McCain spokesperson Maria Comella addressed the CNN cancellation: “After a relentless refusal by certain on-air reporters to come to terms with John McCain’s selection of Alaska’s sitting governor as our party’s nominee for vice president, we decided John McCain’s time would be better served elsewhere.” This follows an established rift between McCain’s camp and MSNBC; Roger Ailes of Fox has described MSNBC and CNN as “in the tank for Obama.”

Obama has had his own network feud; his decision to appear on Fox News ends a months-long Democratic boycott against the network over accusations that the network is unfairly biased toward Republicans. According to The Washington Post, Obama met with Fox executives three months ago to “smooth out” their relationship. The Sept. 4 appearance will arguably help Obama “neutralize a potential adversary and improve his treatment on the nation’s top-rated cable news channel.”

Apart from the Fox News appearance, Obama is keeping up a daily schedule of campaign stops in the Midwest, and has released a handful of new ads. One ad, circulating in about seven swing states, brings the issue of abortion center-stage, and is—the Obama camp says coincidentally—timed to Gov. Palin’s nomination. Palin is pro-life and a mother of five.

According to Politico
, the ad says that “‘as president, John McCain will make abortion illegal,’ before playing an exchange on "Meet the Press" in which McCain told moderator Tim Russert that he favors ‘a constitutional amendment to ban all abortions.’”

Background: Obama’s approval rating and the conventions

In the midst of the Republican National Convention, a Gallup daily tracking poll from Sept. 2 showed that Obama has reached the 50 percent approval mark for the first time, giving him an eight-point lead over McCain. This is Obama’s biggest since he held a nine-point lead following his trip to the Middle East and Europe in July. The recent gain follows a Democratic National Convention widely viewed as successful and an acceptance speech watched by nearly 40 million Americans. It is likely to fall somewhat as McCain takes the spotlight this week.

Opinion & Analysis: The Convention Climate

While some have wondered why Obama’s lead over McCain isn’t even greater following the DNC, Republican pundits have argued that not only has the selection of Palin been a boon for the Republican campaign, but McCain’s advertisements have also been successful. Further, as two former economic advisers to President George W. Bush wrote in The Wall Street Journal, voters may be more tuned in to Obama’s policies than most think, and may have already decided to side with McCain on important issues like the economy.

While the fireworks of the conventions can seem like a passing moment of popularity surges, Mark Penn of Politico argues that the conventions are setting the stage for the fall in a substantial way. “The national momentum of these conventions and the national polls is critical to who wins and who loses,” Penn argues. “We don’t live in isolated media markets, but in an increasingly connected and interactive national community, and presidential campaigns are largely driven by the earned media, with paid ads playing only a secondary role.”

Such “earned media” arguably includes Obama’s trip abroad in July and McCain’s pick of Palin, both of which garnered the respective candidates a large amount of media attention in the lead-up to their parties’ conventions.

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