The Gimmick Candidacy
The Christian Science Monitor’s Jimmy Orr has a piece today asking what could the McCain campaign possibly have left up its sleeve, after two months of surprises?
With exactly five weeks to go before voting day, who knows what the McCain campaign is going to try next? August and September have been anything but boring. And with a poll showing Barack Obama won last Friday’s debate, the prospect for an even more interesting October seems likely.
The American electorate has been on a roller coaster of surprises from Team McCain, including the selection of a complete unknown as John McCain’s running mate, portraying Barack Obama as the next Messiah, featuring Paris Hilton and Britney Spears in campaign ads, high-profile media cancellations, suspending his campaign, and calling for the postponement of the debate.
These were planned tactics. The list doesn’t mention the dramatics of a hacked email account, a senior campaign official questioning her own candidate’s credentials (twice), and a disastrous television interview which could singlehandedly resurrect Saturday Night Live.
If this was all in the Republican nominee’s Fall playbook, one wonders if the campaign secretly dumped campaign managers Rick Davis and Steve Schmidt and elevated Charles Barkley to steer the ship.
Without explicitly saying so, Orr has nicely illustrated the McCain’s gimmick-based campaign strategy.
With the notable exception of the debate — in which he had no choice — McCain has all but abandoned trying to create a cohesive narrative for why he should be elected, in favor of a series of high-profile stunts.
McCain does talk about policy, to be sure, but the financial crisis has made clear that the campaign has a problem with object permanence. For example, whatever happened to the “Mortgage and Financial Institutions Trust” he was touting last week?
Sen. Barack Obama may not be talking about policy any more than McCain, but his campaign narrative is well-established, and a lot of people are buying it. McCain’s presidential bid appears to be tied to the belief that the American public’s attention span is so short that if he can keep his name in the headlines by periodically do something outrageous or unexpected, he can stay in the game until November.
But are gimmicks enough to win an election?