It took less than a week for Team Obama to put together a commercial attacking Mitt Romney for “dismissing” 47% of the population who do not pay Federal Income Taxes. They’re obviously on the job.
If you actually listen to Romney’s comments, (recorded surreptitiously by an Obama supporter) you will hear what Romney clearly said. He didn’t “dismiss” this group as people. He dismissed them as potential voters for his campaign.
In a campaign, no matter how large the numbers of dollars that are available for advertising, they are still limited and the intelligent candidate will want to commit them where they can do the most good. Romney’s spending this money to try to gain a few votes from the 47% he referenced would probably have as much value as the manufacturer of the “Day After Pill” would receive from marketing its product on Catholic TV.
This is not a point that is lost on Team Obama – despite their moral indignation about Romney’s comment. This is exactly their tactic as they spend their own advertising dollars.
If you try to find an ad for Obama on CNBC you will have to look long and hard. They simply do not air there – or at least not frequently enough that I have seen any. So is Obama “dismissing” the segment of the population that is CNBC’s potential audience? Perhaps so. The 53% who have worked hard, saved money and invested and who do pay Federal Income Taxes. Well, it’s okay to write them off I suppose. Clearly that is consistent with the President’s policies.
But I found my most telling example of how Obama deploys advertising dollars on one station in particular – TV Land. This station features reruns of formerly successful sitcoms and offers some original programming as well such as, “The Soul Man” – a sitcom about a newly ordained black minister and billed by the station as “classic family comedy.” In the ads that run promoting the show, The Soul Man’s wife can be seen making the statement, “Lack of bootie makes you moody.” I guess it doesn’t meet my definition of family comedy – but then I’m not watching it.
In the morning hours TV Land shows three classic comedies consecutively (which do meet my definition of family comedy). They are, “Leave It To Beaver,” “The Dick Van Dyke Show,” and “I Love Lucy.” They were written at a time when sitcoms were about white families (this is before black-Barbies were created) and, as is typical of the times depicted middle class, two parent families dealing with the business of life and raising their kids. There were no hints of sex – in fact to conform to the custom of the times, these married couples’ bedrooms featured twin beds on which they slept. And, of course, there was no obscenity used in the dialogue.
Now what is interesting is that I have rarely seen an Obama ad on any of these three shows – and I spent a week tracking these ads (which I will say are plentiful on this station) in part out of curiosity and in part so I would have material for this post. My conclusion is that the President simply doesn’t consider middle class white families as part of the audience he hopes to draw to him on Election day.
As I mentioned, TV Land is deriving their fair share of Obama-tising dollars. Last weekend they ran a “Roseanne” marathon. Now I have to admit that I find that particular show terribly depressing. Nevertheless, I had it on (muted) for over eight hours this past weekend just to do some ad tracking. And here’s what I found. Obama ads appeared an average of 8.3 times an hour during this marathon!
It’s obvious that team Obama considers the audience likely to watch “Roseanne” as being a part of his core constituency – the exact constituency that he criticized Romney for “dismissing.” And I think that he is right – and in that correctness has, in fact, validated Romney’s statement.
Consider the characters in “Roseanne.” You have a blue collar family trying to keep their heads above water despite the fact that both have low-paying jobs. It’s an unfortunate hand to mouth existence for them and their three (later four) kids. Both parents are morbidly obese which, according to the National Institutes of Health, is inevitably going to result in all sorts of medical conditions which will be paid for by the Medicaid that they are receiving on the show. With their limited (high school diploma) education, there are few career paths open to them to improve their situation. But the writers for the show snagged one – which I refer to as the Great American Dream – Roseanne, in a late episode wins a huge payout together with her sister by playing the lottery – thus escaping her life of poverty and dependence on government assistance.
Now you may ask, is the President playing to his audience? Of course he is. And it would seem like overkill to keep repeating advertising to an audience which already is 99% committed to him. So why do it?
The answer is turnout. This election will not be decided by who has the best message and the best economic plan; by who has the greatest insight into foreign policy; by who is most in touch with the people on social issues. This election will be determined by how many of us get out and vote.
Interestingly, the Obama ads which appeared most frequently on “Roseanne” were ones which promoted fear. “Romney’s going to take away your benefits.” When people are dependent on the government for their meager existence you can be sure that will stir up some feelings. (That there is no truth in some of these statements is irrelevant to the issue).
By the way, the second most frequently-aired commercials during the “Roseanne” marathon were produced by makers of motorized chairs for people who had impaired mobility. “We’ll work with your insurance and Social Security to get you your chair – at little or no cost to you,” goes the copy for one of these ads.
We all know – at least if we’re honest – that everything costs something. So if these handicap-assistive chairs are free or at little cost to the recipient – who do you think is paying for them? I guess it’s the 53% of the population to whom Romney has turned his attention and focus.