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« PA 10: Carney's Big Mo | Blog Home Page | IN 03: Scaring Souder »

Strategy Memo: Infotainment

Good Wednesday morning. The rain has stopped, so when do we get the final three and a half innings of baseball we were promised? Here's what Washington is watching today:

--Actually, tonight. For thirty minutes this evening, Barack Obama will own the airwaves on Fox, NBC and CBS, as well as Univision, BET, MSNBC and TV One, where his campaign will make a closing argument to millions of voters. At $1 million per channel for the half hour, Obama bumped several shows (including, as we like to joke, doing everyone a favor by keeping Jay Mohr off television for a night) in order to highlight those he has met on the trail, as well as a live component of a rally Obama will hold in Clearwater, Florida, the Washington Post writes.

-- The campaign handed a trailer of the thirty-minute broadcast over to the New York Times, which Jim Rutenberg found "heavy in strings, flags, presidential imagery and some Americana filmed by Davis Guggenheim," the son of RFK's presidential documentarian. The mix of straight-to-camera and pre-filmed interviews is a huge benefit for Obama, a debate without his opponent and a definable moment the Democrat has made for himself. Plus, for the political scientist in all of us, it comes early enough before the election that any effect, or lack thereof if it's a flop, will be measurable, perhaps as early as in Friday's tracking polls.

-- Obama is looking for the delicate balance between talking at people for thirty minutes and delivering an overly-produced gimmick, and it's a move not without risk, writes Politico's Jeanne Cummings. In other words, this is Obama's closing argument, but even closing arguments don't always seal the deal. Then again, Obama can still make some changes to the program. Two suggestions: Entertainment is always good, and we know Bruce Springsteen's done a few concerts for Obama before. And why not have some fun, put on a funny hat and imitate the Great Karnak? ("101 million," Karnak says. "What is, the number of families I plan to give tax cuts to, or the number of new donors I'll win over tonight?" Says sidekick Joe Biden, on the couch with a cup of coffee: "Hey-o, yes! You are correct, sir!")

-- Though Obama gets another crack at undecided voters, McCain isn't done yet. In fact, his chief pollster sees the race tightening. Public Opinion Strategies' Bill McInturff, in a memo the campaign released late yesterday, says the party is gaining among rural voters and Reagan Democrats in a significant way over the last week or so. Perhaps the most intriguing argument McInturff makes is that McCain has room to grow; Obama's already sky-high support among African Americans essentially takes them out of play -- there aren't any black voters who remain undecided. That means the block of those who haven't decided are largely white, voters among whom McCain will do well. The Wall Street Journal's Elizabeth Holmes posts the whole memo.

-- But GOP candidates are still acting like McCain is in worse position than he claims. Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels yesterday launched his final swing around the state as he seeks re-election himself, but he won't be in Jeffersonville, where Sarah Palin will hold a rally this evening, the Indianapolis Star's Mary Beth Schneider writes. Yesterday, McCain stopped in Fayetteville, North Carolina with 7,000 of his closest friends cheering him on, but Senator Elizabeth Dole wasn't one of them, Politico's Glenn Thrush writes. Dole's team said her bus tour around the state had already been set by the time McCain's rally was planned. Still, GOP candidates are going to need to embrace their presidential candidate or he truly will have no shot at the comeback.

-- Win or lose, McCain has already shaped the Republican Party, or at least the starting point for the conversation about what the GOP will look like in the future. In short, McCain has moved populist, telling CNBC yesterday that the government's top priority should be bailing out homeowners who have trouble with their mortgages. That populism is embodied in Sarah Palin, a social conservative more concerned with the everyman than with the party's business wing, and her future role in the party is a subject of intense conversations among conservatives, the New York Times' Zernike and Davey write. As Palin and McCain apparently grow apart, McCain's lasting legacy may be introducing the Alaska governor to the country. (How's this for growing apart: Palin will return to Alaska on Monday night to cast her vote in the state on Tuesday before heading back to Phoenix for the election night party, CNN reports.)

-- In other GOP news, realizing the dire straits in which they find themselves, the Republican National Committee is moving to shore up their Senate committee by taking out a $5 million line of credit for struggling GOP incumbents. The party gave the NRSC $2 million of that money while reserving $3 million for coordinated expenditures with those candidates, the Associated Press reports today. Party chair Mike Duncan pointed to Republican incumbents in Kentucky, Georgia, Mississippi, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Oregon and North Carolina -- in other words, every vulnerable GOP incumbent except for Ted Stevens. Democrats will still have outspent the GOP by a wide margin, while reports suggest the DNC may be willing to follow suit with their own line of credit. Meanwhile, in a must-read, Stu Rothenberg wonders whether the National Republican Congressional Committee made the right funding choices.

-- Guest Of The Day: Finally, just under five months after Barack Obama secured his party's nomination for president, he will stand on stage tonight with his party's most recent president, the Orlando Sentinel's Jim Stratton writes. Obama and Bill Clinton will hold a late-night rally in Kissimmee, Florida this evening after the Illinois senator's half-hour of primetime television space. Hillary Clinton has made dozens of stops with Obama, including rallies in Unity, New Hampshire in June and in Florida last week, but her husband has been conspicuously absent. Now, Bill is back, and the visual of the two onstage will be heartwarming for Democrats everywhere.

-- Today On The Trail: McCain is in Florida today for a rally in Miami, a national security roundtable in Tampa and a rally in Palm Beach before joining Larry King on CNN. Obama has a rally in Raleigh, then down to Florida a rally set for Sunrise during the half-hour infomercial and a late-night event with Clinton in Kissimmee. He also appears on the Daily Show this evening via satellite. Sarah Palin will give a policy speech this morning highlighting energy policy in Toledo before staging rallies in Bowling Green and Chillicothe, Ohio and in Jeffersonville, Indiana. Biden, meanwhile, is spending another day in Florida, with a stop in Jupiter before joining Obama for the rally in Sunrise.