Friday, May 11, 2007

Obama News

Two brief news items on Obama in the last week that seemed to 'disappear' into the media news cycle(s):

1. Oprah endorses Obama

Celebrity endorsements have traditionally been 'over-valued' by the campaigns and (often times) the media - even Bruce Springsteen wasn't enough to save John Kerry in Ohio. (Political endorsements, for that matter, are often over-valued as well.) Yet Oprah is sui generis, in that not only is she is celebrity, she is a celebrity with a constant platform in people's homes. In addition, the endorsement would seem to preclude, say Hillary Clinton or John Edwards from appearing on Oprah's show during the primary campaign, which means that a way of reaching certain viewers is no available. (At the very least, it would change the dynamic dramtically if those competitors of Obama's did appear on 'Oprah' during the primaries.)

2. Obama receives Secret Service protection.

Last week, it became known that the Secret Service is now providing protection to Candidate Obama, the earliest ever for a Presidential candidate (more than 18 months before the general election.) As commentators have noted, it is appropriate that he receive such protection, especially in light of the crowds he has been drawing. (Hillary receives protection already in her role as a former First Lady.)

Obama's campaign apparently made the request. However, what will be interesting to see is if the extra protection effects how Obama interacts with crowds, and how he campaigns in general. In my experience, the Secret Services forces a presidential campaign to 'grow up fast' - to make decisions about logistics, organization, and who 'gets in the room' with the protectee much earlier, and eliminates changes 'on the go.' The staff is constantly trying to create photos and visuals with the candidate surrounded by smiling crowds -- not stern-faced men in suits. While the protectee can overrule his protection at any time -- and stop the car, for instance, to jump out and shake hands -- the Service expect a heads-up from the campaign staff if the 'spontaneous gesture' is, shall we say, less than unplanned.

But getting used to working with the Service now, rather than in the heat of the primary campaigns, has its own advantages. And of course, everyone hopes that the Secret Service protection will never have to be tested.

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