7 Days To Denver
by Todd Beeton, Mon Aug 18, 2008 at 11:30:04 AM EDT
I was watching one of the Sunday shows yesterday and a Villager whose name escapes me now began to make the case that John McCain's "celebrity" ad campaign is brilliant (my word, maybe not his) because it pre-emptively blunts the impact of Barack's acceptance speech in front of 75,000 people next week -- what's 75,000 people in a stadium for the biggest celebrity in the world?
But the reason the McCain campaign may end up regretting that campaign -- the same reason they may end up regretting whining that Barack Obama "refuses" to debate McCain -- is that it lowers expectations of Barack to a level where it's impossible not to exceed them. The meme that Barack Obama is substance-less is perhaps exactly the sort of thing the Obama campaign wants people to think of Barack going into next week's convention, because the bounce he gets out of it will be, I suspect, directly proportional to the extent to which he exceeds people's expectations.
First up in the expectations game: Michelle Obama who will be headlining Monday night.
The New York Times previews next week:
One of the first images prime-time viewers will see of the Democratic National Convention next week is that of Michelle Obama, who will begin the four-day introduction of her husband, and her family, on her terms.
Like everything else at the orchestrated gala, that is by design.
Democrats face a number of imperatives at their convention, none trickier than making more voters comfortable with the prospect of putting a candidate with a most unusual background -- the son of a black Kenyan father and a white Kansan mother, who grew up in Hawaii and Indonesia -- and his family in the White House. No one, his advisers believe, makes the case better for Senator Barack Obama of Illinois than his wife, who will expand her profile by delivering one of the marquee speeches carried by television networks.
I've seen Michelle once -- at the UCLA event with Oprah and Caroline Kennedy and Michelle was really the star of the show. I had no idea how great a speaker she was; she really blew the place away, as I expect she'll blow away the millions of people watching on Monday. Her aim will be to pass the first lady in your living room test and I have no doubt that she will more than pass. Michelle has largely been laying low from national media and I think next Monday is why. It's her coming out party and just as last year Hillary Clinton exceeded expectations of those whose only knowledge of her post-2000 was a caricature propagated by the right, those who only have the caricature of Michelle Obama to go by will be taken aback when they come face to face with the real thing.
As a sidenote, I'm here in CT at my parents' house and my Republican Dad was listening to Rush and you could just hear the cockiness in his voice when speaking about McCain's performance at the forum Saturday night. Rush said he expected very little out of McCain and the way McCain ultimately did perform has given "his side" a real boost in confidence and I believe it. Unfortunately for them I think it's shortlived. Obama's choice to announce his VP so close to the convention is no doubt designed to avoid what happened to Kerry in 2004 when his VP pick bounce faded pre-convention and then there was really not much convention bounce at all. The Obama campaign clearly is going for a VP pick/convention 1-2 punch bounce. Will they get it? Considering the expectations game now favors Obama (in that he's perceived to be underperforming polling, messaging -- relative to the primaries, and debating -- to the extent that Saturday's forum was the first "debate") I expect that they will.