Hide and go advertise

From the New York Times:

Senator Barack Obama has started a sustained and hard-hitting advertising campaign against Senator John McCain in states that will be vital this fall, painting Mr. McCain in a series of commercials as disconnected from the economic struggles of the middle class.

Mr. Obama has begun the drive with little fanfare, often eschewing the modern campaign technique of unveiling new spots for the news media before they run in an effort to win added (free) attention. Mr. Obama, whose candidacy has been built in part on a promise to transcend traditional politics, is running the negative commercials on local stations even as he runs generally positive spots nationally, during prime-time coverage of the Olympics.

Here’s two things worth saying about this.
(1) The ads aren’t actually very hard-hitting. Obama has run the whole campaign since Berlin at half-throttle. He’s still a few points ahead of McCain in most national polls, and well ahead (though his lead is shrinking) in electoral-college predictions. And if he keeps telling himself that, he’ll lose.
(2) More germane to Canadian campaigns: This business of announcing ads without running them, or running ads without announcing them, has become common in this country in the past few election cycles and will certainly be more prevalent in the next campaign than before. This is a gentle note to my colleagues in other news organizations. It is folly to rely on political parties’ announcements of their ad strategies as the main source for our coverage of their ad strategies. They will free-ride off our coverage even as they hide their most substantial moves from us. Readers and viewers will compare the fairy tales we passively pass along to them against what they actually see on TV and hear on the radio, and they will tell themselves once again that we don’t know what we’re talking about.

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