Campaign '08 enters goofy stage
Paris Hilton for president! Just kidding, but the election's silly season may be eroding Obama's 'celebrity.'
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Apparently the public is also ready for a break: According to the Pew Research Center, 48 percent of Americans say they have been hearing too much lately about Senator Obama, the Democrats' presumptive presidential nominee. Only 26 percent say the same about his Republican opponent, John McCain. And in what Pew calls a "slight, but statistically significant margin – 22 percent to 16 percent – people say that recently they have a less rather than more favorable view of [Obama]."
In a close race, with Obama consistently ahead of Senator McCain by about four points, a slight shift either way can be crucial. So after what can easily be called one of the goofiest weeks ever in presidential campaign politics, the real question may be whether it has any lasting effect – especially as it played out during the summer doldrums.
"Most folks are paying attention with only one ear, at most," says Cal Jillson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. "But still, you can establish a theme at this point that builds through the convention. What McCain has done is he's blunted Obama's momentum coming home from Europe and reestablished the sense that you don't know much about this guy."
The first McCain campaign video that got people buzzing highlighted footage of Obama's pop-star-esque reception in Berlin, followed by images of celebrities Ms. Spears and Ms. Hilton – an attempt to portray Obama as just another celebrity (read: vapid). The video became a viral hit online, with endless replays on cable TV. McCain also broke through the buzz barrier by handing out tire gauges to celebrate Obama's birthday last Monday – an attempt to mock Obama's suggestion that motorists keep their tires inflated to save fuel. The McCain campaign portrayed the advice as the sum total of Obama's energy plan.
By the end of the week, the tire gauge gambit had played out, after it became clear that keeping tires inflated is standard advice for fuel efficiency – and Obama himself fought back indignantly, saying, "It's like these guys take pride in being ignorant."
But the biggest hit of the week may have been Paris Hilton's own mock "campaign ad," rebutting that "white-haired dude" (McCain) and laying out her own energy plan as she lounged poolside in a leopard-print bathing suit.