The Barack Obama show tonight ended up being part sales pitch to voters and part paean to an idyllic America.
The half-hour infomercial opened with, literally, images of amber waves of grain and ordinary Americans.
"Weíve seen over the last eight years how decisions by a president can have a profound effect on the course of history and on American lives," Obama said, sitting on the edge of a desk. "But much thatís wrong in our country goes back even farther than that. Weíve been talking about the same problems for decades and nothing is ever done to solve them.
"For the past twenty months, Iíve traveled the length of this country. And Michelle and I have met so many Americans who are looking for real and lasting change that makes a difference in their lives. Their stories are American stories. Iíd like to introduce you to some of those people tonight.
"I will also lay out in specific detail what Iíll do as president to restore the long-term health of our economy and our middle class and how Iíll make the decisions to get us there. What struck me the most about these stories you will see tonight is not just the challenges these Americans face but also their resolve to change this country."
Then, there was a video montage of everyday Americans talking about the pocketbook and other challenges they face: a family with small children struggling with healthcare bills; a widow in Albuquerque, N.M., struggling with her finances; a couple who both work at an auto plant in Kentucky -- the husband had his hours cut back, the wife was laid off -- and are worried about their retirements;
After each case study, Obama explained how his proposals can help, either talking to groups of voters, or talking directly to viewers, or in clips of speeches or during debates.
"Iím worried about the couple thatís trying to figure out how theyíre going to retire," Obama is shown telling a group of voters. "Iím worried about the guy who has worked in a plant for 20 years and suddenly sees his job shipped overseas. Thatís who Iím worried about and thatís who Iím going to be fighting for and thinking about every single day that Iím in the White House.Ē
He outlined his plans for cutting taxes for the middle class, expanding alternative energy, ending the Iraq war, improving education, extending healthcare to the uninsured, He also pledged to make spending cuts to pay for all his programs and vowed to rebuild the military, defend the country, and stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons.
Some of his top surrogates praised Obama and his plans, including Governor Deval Patrick of Massachusetts. "The challenges before us are big," Patrick said, adding that once-in-a-generation leadership is needed.
In one portion of the infomercial, Obama went through his own biography, including his mother dying of cancer. His wife, Michelle, described him being a father to their two young daughters. Viewers saw a clip of Obama's speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston that put him on the national political stage. His running mate Joe Biden described Obama's work in the US Senate.
The taped portion of the ad ended with Obama saying he wasn't a perfect man and wouldn't be a perfect president, but would also tell Americans where he stands and always listen to the.
At the end, the ad went to Obama live at a rally in the aptly named Sunrise, Fla. "America the time for change has come," Obama declared. "In six days we can choose hope over fear."
It ended with information on screen on his website and a text number to find out where to vote.
The infomercial aired on CBS, NBC, and Fox, plus on cable on MSNBC, the Spanish-language Univision, and two networks targeted to African-American viewers, BET and TV One.
It cost the Obama campaign about $1 million on each broadcast network, but it could easily afford it -- demonstrating again the power of his huge fund-raising edge. Billionaire Ross Perot, in his 1992 independent campaign, is the last presidential candidate to buy so much air time in one fell swoop.
After the ad aired, McCain spokesman Tucker Bounds said in a statement, ďAs anyone who has bought anything from an infomercial knows, the sales-job is always better than the product. Buyer beware."
In a Florida appearance this evening before the ad aired, McCain mocked it -- and described it as the fruit of a broken pledge to accept public financing as he did, and the spending limits that come with it.
ďNow, tonight, we can all look forward to my opponentís performance in a television infomercial. It used to be that only rain or some other act of God could delay the World Series, but I guess the network execs figured an Obama infomercial was close enough," McCain said, though Fox has said that only the pregame show was preempted by the ad. "As with other infomercials, heís got a few things he wants to sell you: Heís offering government-run health care Ö an energy plan guaranteed to work without drilling Ö and an automatic wealth spreader that folds neatly and fits under any bed.
ďWhen youíre watching this gauzy, feel-good commercial, just remember that it was paid for with broken promises," McCain added. "Senator Obama signed a piece of paper committing to public financing of his campaign. Twice he looked the American people in the eye and said he would sit down with me before he abandoned public financing. He didnít mean a word of it. When it was in his interest to break his promise, he tossed it aside like it didnít mean a thing. He is the first candidate since Watergate to abandon the public financing system, and his campaign is now being flooded with hundreds of millions of dollars in undisclosed and questionable donations. His campaign has directly profited from his broken promise and because of that, the American people have to ask: what does the broken promise behind tonightís infomercial say about the value of his other commitments?"
Obama spokesman Bill Burton responded, ďJohn McCainís angry rant and desperate attacks do not change the fact that McCain wants to continue the same trickle down economic policies that have devastated the middle class.Ē
About Political Intelligence
Glen Johnson is Politics Editor at boston.com and lead blogger for "Political Intelligence." He moved to Massachusetts in the fourth grade, and has covered local, state, and national politics for over 25 years. E-mail him at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @globeglen.