Marc Ambinder at TheAtlantic.com introduced Obama’s Olympics ad today.

Five million bucks get you…

To answer him … not much.

Obama’s latest ads are disappointing me, and perhaps it’s because I’m reading that book I mentioned last night.

Drew Westen writes about past Democratic candidates’ mistakes in pursuing the presidency from a policy perspective. Al Gore and John Kerry both tried to debate their way to the presidency, relying on intellect and debating skills. And while both didn’t lose (Bush v. Gore in 2000), both Democrats could have won had they understood that emotions grab most Americans, not policy.

Republicans understand what the philosopher David Hume recognized three centuries ago: that reason is a slave to emotion, not the other way around. With the exception of the Clinton era, Democratic strategists for the last three decades have instead clung tenaciously to the dispassionate view of the mind and to the campaign strategy that logically follows from it, namely one that focuses on facts, figures, policy statements, costs and benefits, and appeals to intellect and expertise. (15)

Westen then goes on to point out that speaking to the intellect of the American electorate inhibits one from speaking from the heart. When polls and market-tested phrases are more important than simply stating what you believe, voters are left looking for the candidate’s principles.

This latest ad wasn’t that bad. It had a nice message toward the beginning. It came off as somewhat interesting. But halfway in, like a ball hit into a stiff wind, it died. The message is hit hard off the bat, taking with it emotional energy. But when it reaches that height — when that policy banner appears — the energy disappears, and it falls back down to earth. Another wasted homerun.

Don’t get me wrong: voters should know that Obama has a plan — but only sometimes. As McCain is peppering Obama with unfair attacks and playing the emotion card, the Obama camp responds with a mild emotional appeal, followed by a policy prescription. That’s it.

Obama cannot surrender the emotional appeal to McCain. The McCain campaign is ferociously trying to connect Obama’s strength — the gift of delivering powerful, energizing, motivational rhetoric — with his celebrity and what some think is elitism. A failure of Obama to recapture emotion in his ads hands this battle to McCain.

Advertisements