Republican presidential contender Mitt Romney campaigns in Springfield,… (Evan Vucci / Associated…)
As he was closing in on victory four years ago, Sen. Barack Obama used his overflowing campaign treasury to buy 30 minutes of air time on network and cable television — to show the American people a super-long commercial about his life and plans for his new administration.
The video amounted to Obama’s closing argument, aired on seven network and cable stations, just days before he defeated Republican John McCain to take the White House.
Four years later, Mitt Romney would be wise to steal a page from Obama’s playbook — but unfortunately for the Republican, not to make a final pitch to voters. At this late stage in the campaign, Romney needs a 10-minute glossy biographical video, which debuted at the Republican National Convention in late August, to reintroduce himself to Americans.
The late Tampa, Fla., convention largely failed to make a reasonable, public-spirited Romney known to voters. Viewers would later tell pollsters that the most memorable thing about the GOP gathering was a freestyle rap by actor Clint Eastwood on the final night. Romney’s team inexplicably put the most moving testimonials to the nominee’s character outside the one-hour prime-time window allotted by the networks.
On the night of his big acceptance speech, as Politics Now previously reported, Romney’s camp ignored the admonition of at least one TV network to air the biographical video. Instead, Team Romney went with Eastwood, who launched a 12-minute soliloquy. Result: #Epicfail — at least if your goal was promoting Mitt Romney, not Eastwood’s new movie, “Trouble With the Curve.”
McCain mocked Obama for airing his 30-minute video in 2008 — calling the piece an “infomercial” and suggesting it would get in the way of World Series coverage. But Obama got something precious: an uninterrupted half-hour to tell voters who he was and why he could be trusted in the Oval Office.
Those who saw the Romney bio piece inside the Tampa convention hall, and even members of a hard-bitten press corps, declared it a winner. It cast Romney in a human light — as a farther and caring husband, standing by wife Ann as she was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
The 10-minute video also included testimonials from fellow worshipers at the Mormon church Romney oversaw in Boston — speaking about his compassion for family members in their times of desperate need. The video presented a very different leader from the one who seemed to be disparaging the unfortunate in the “47%” video that has dogged the campaign in recent days.
It’s never made sense, the way campaigns spend lavishly to produce these triumphal bio videos, to display them only once or twice and then move on.
Romney’s see-saw tactics on the stump and his small-bore advertising have not changed the minds of key voters, who continue to view him as the un-empathetic rich guy. It would have been much more effective for the Republicans to roll out his biography in the spring, before the Democrats began to define him as the heartless investment magnate.
But the candidate can’t go back and needs to try something with a little bigger bang — like 10 minutes of network air time to deliver a winning profile that most Americans have yet to see.