In a stunning move only attempted once in presidential election history, the Obama campaign today finalized a deal to purchase an entire half hour block of broadcasting time from a major network. CBS sold Obama a half hour of time on Wednesday, October 29th, starting at 8:00PM. It appears Obama will present his closing argument to the American people in this fashion as negotiations are also ongoing with NBC and Fox for a similar half hour block of evening broadcasting.
The news of Obama’s strong network buy comes at time when John McCain’s campaign stands at its nadir and possibly its last legs. Three of the four debates are over, and both instant polls and later larger surveys of each debate show the public siding with the Democratic ticket. More troubling for the McCain campaign is the strong voter move to Obama over the past few weeks as world’s stock markets have steadily sold off with no end in sight. Indeed, today’s selloff of the Dow Jones Industrial Average pushed below 9000, the first time the Dow Jones has seen such depths since August of 2003, to close at 8,579.19. Over 20% of of the Dow Jones has been lost in the past seven trading days, nearing the 22.6% selloff on Black Monday in 1987.
Obama’s purchase of blocks of primetime network time follows in the footsteps of Ross Perot in 1992, the only prior presidential candidate to buy such half hour blocks of network time. In 1992, Perot purchased blocks of time on NBC and even beat some of the other networks for ratings at the time. Considering Obama’s popularity, Obama’s primetime show will undoubtably beat Perot’s numbers and perhaps all other competing broadcasting.
The move into blocks of network time comes on the heels of Obama’s purchase of an entire satellite channel, Channel 73, on the Dish TV network last week. Channel 73 is looping an effective two minute Obama economy ad entitled Barack Obama’s Plan for America. The fundraising advantage of the Obama campaign enables such large and unprecedented media buys and sets up Obama for a strong closing message.
Against that backdrop, the McCain campaign continued with a focus on Obama’s relationship with ex-terrorist William Ayers and explaining McCain’s debate night proposal to buy up mortgages directly and renegotiate them downward with the homeowners. Neither initiative appears to have picked up steam, and the media narrative continues to be dominated by discussion of Obama’s surge in popularity since the economic crisis began.
Centrist, independent and moderate voters are moving strongly towards Obama, and McCain has yet to find the right message to stem that tide. Considering the shocked reaction of many Americans to the recent stock market collapse, and Obama’s skillful linkage of this crash to the GOP as the market’s “final verdict” on GOP’s economic policies, no message may fit the bill for McCain.
McCain now stands nearly 10 points behind in most national tracking polls, with the esteemed Gallup tracking poll showing Obama with a commanding, campaign-best 11 point lead, 52-41%. State polls are following suit, with McCain at his lowest support level of the campaign in battlegrounds such as Virginia, Indiana, North Carolina, Missouri, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Florida. With only one debate to go and less than four weeks until election day, the McCain campaign is teetering on the edge of a collapse in support which would result in a electoral landslide not seen since Reagan’s victory over Mondale in 1984.