Obama's Batting Average Just Went Up

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THE PLANK AUGUST 19, 2008

Obama's Batting Average Just Went Up

It's a typical summer night in the Cohn household, which means the Red Sox are on television. McCain has been advertising pretty heavily on the New England Sports Network (NESN) for the last few weeks, usually with some version of his "celebrity" ad, presumably to reach the heavy New Hampshire audience. Obama, meanwhile, has run far fewer spots--and what I've seen has been relatively tepid.

(It's an unscientific sample, yes, but I catch most of the games, so I have at least some basis for making this judgment.)

Tonight, though, the NESN broadcast included an Obama contrast ad. It splices McCain talking up the economy with average Americans talking about their struggles to pay for gas, find a job, or cover their health care costs. It's simliar, although not identical, to this ad that the indispensible Marc Ambinder posted on his website yesterday

This is precisely the kind of sharp, hard-hitting issues ad I had in mind earlier today. As Paul Krugman, among others, has noted, Obama's problem isn't a lack of policy specifics or even, of late, a lack of attention to them. It's the way he talks about the issues. There's too much wonkish discussion of the tax code, not enough straightforward, indignant messaging. This ad, thankfully, keeps it simple: Like the closing line says, how can McCain fix the economy when he doesn't think it's broken?

One other note: Juxtaposing everyday people, rather than a narrator's voice, with McCain seems particularly shrewd. It creates the impression that they--not Obama--are the ones attacking McCain.  Now if the Obama team could just cut similar ads focusing on, say, health care and Social Security...

Of course, as I write this, the Sox are winning 6-2.* That may be putting me in an unusually optimistic mood.

*Update: Final score, Boston wins 7-2

--Jonathan Cohn 

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