In a new ad, the Obama campaign casts John McCain as “Washington’s biggest celebrity” and reminds us of his numerous media and Hollywood appearances:I dunno. Maybe I’m alone in this, but I’ve never been that convinced that the “Barack Obama is a celebrity” attack angle is damaging per se to Obama. (I’m with Jimmy Kimmel, who ran the McCain ad, cutting it off after the “He”s the biggest celebrity in the world” line, and concluded it with, “I’m Barack Obama, and I approve this message.”) And to the extent that it is effective at all, it is probably so because—fair or not—it resonates with other criticisms that are specific to Obama.
Sure, this ad points out the glass-houses aspect of McCain’s attack, but speaking as a Barack Obama voter, I tend to think that’s more satisfying to Barack Obama voters. (Put another way: seeing the hypocrisy in it and wanting other voters to see the hypocrisy in it does not guarantee that other voters will care about the hypocrisy.)
[Update: Maybe this is a better way of putting it—if you already know who you are voting for, this ad, and any other you will see this election season, is not for you. Something to keep in mind when evaluating any of them.]
The way I’d seen the “celeb” story itself play out, Obama had a stronger hand in recognizing that (1) all in all, the mass of Americans like celebrities (the McCain attack is sort of like a Perez Hilton snark strategy, but Access Hollywood still speaks to more Americans) and (2) that he could get mileage out of the response that “America is suffering from X, Y and Z, and John McCain wants to talk about Paris Hilton.” Beyond that: accept that you’re a media star, own it, realize that there as worse things in the world, and shake off the haters. (If you cast it that way, I think more Americans want to be on Team Player than Team Hater, but maybe I’m wrong.)
Of course, I’m not a campaign strategist, so that’s out of my depth. And one explanation for this ad is that the real money shots are all the pictures of John McCain embracing George W. Bush, and the “celebrity” stuff is just the bait that ensures the spot will get picked up widely. In which case, they’re probably right.
In the meantime, the campaign ad wars have extended to the Olympics. McCain has been running the original “Celeb” spot with his $6 million ad buy, where it seems conspicuously harsh in the midst of a sea of uplift-themed commercials. Obama’s Olympic ad seems more in keeping with the rest of the advertising, even if it does seem less like an ad for a candidate and more like a corporate image ad for Archer Daniels Midland: