THE GROFF/ELLISON POLITICAL REPORT

Image and Contrast Gap Emerging?

Posted in Uncategorized by groffellison on July 27, 2008

200,000 screaming German citizens.  A quiet ride in a golf cart.  Smiling and confident photos with smiling and confident world leaders.  A video of a suited uncomfortable grocery store shopper. 

Images and contrast make elections.  The better the images and the more striking the contrast the better for the candidate striking the images and creating the contrast. 

Those images above are just some of the images from this past week in the presidential campaign.  Presumptive Democratic nominee Sen. Barack Obama visited eight countries, covered tens of thousands of miles and location after location produced stunning photos that showed Obama in a positive “presidential” image.  The stories coming out of the trip were good if you’re supporting the Illinois Senator and the quotes from the world leaders the Democrat met with were even better.  But what had to please the campaign most had to be the pictures that emerged.  The photo of a confident Obama “looking presidential” as he waved to the throng in Germany at the historic Victory Column probably meant more to the campaign than the speech. 

This foreign trip was all about image for Obama, it was an opportunity for America to see him as Commander in Chief as he made “presidential appearances.”  Presidential appearances like meeting with the troops, meeting in “serious” settings with allies and world leaders, speaking about America’s greatness before foreign citizens as a potential “leader of the free world” and meeting with the world press with world leaders who praised him and America. 

The image success of the trip was not lost on the Republican supposed nominee Sen. John McCain who mocked the trip as a “victory lap” and said he’d rather give the speech in Germany as the “president” not a “candidate.”  But McCain missed the point, it wasn’t the speech or the trip it was the images produced by the trip and the speech that mattered.  It was those images that were juxtaposed to McCain’s for the week, the golf cart and the grocery store.  The Obama photos in Germany when showed along historic German speeches by Presidents Kennedy and Reagan.  And to top it off it was McCain who teased Obama about going abroad in the first place.  It was the classic political example of you better be careful what you hope for. 

Republicans have long worried privately about how the young, taller and fitter Obama contrasted with the older, shorter and stumpier McCain.  With the recent photos and videos showing a potential image gap emerging the GOP will have to come up with a way to better present McCain and they might want to do it soon. 

Obama will accept the nomination in an open air National Football League stadium that could be configured to seat 80,000 plus people.  Then three weeks later Obama and McCain will walk out from opposite sides of a stage for the their first debate and greet each with the younger Obama looking down on the older McCain. 

Bad image. 

The McCain campaign will have to figure out how to show their candidate in way that closes this image gap before it widens further.  The question is how do they place him in the right atmosphere and not make it look manufactured.  

But then again they could hope for a torrential downpour in an open air stadium during an acceptance speech. 

Bad Image.

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