Democratic presidential nominee Barack Obama has raised far more money than any presidential candidate in history, and a lot of that money is being spent on television ads running in competitive states.
Perhaps the most remarkable one of all is the 30-minute commercial that ran nationally Wednesday night on more than a half-dozen broadcast and cable networks.
The commercial presented the first-term senator in a number of roles: as surrogate president, professor, preacher, problem-solver. It was a counterpoint to how he has been characterized by some Republicans and cable news hosts of late — as a kind of radical. Instead, viewers saw him telling the story of his political philosophy through the challenges facing many Americans. Several working families were shown at home, worrying over rising costs of food and medical bills.
It was a half-hour testimonial in the guise of a documentary, in which Obama was the narrator and the subject, receiving support from leading political figures, such as Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick, a fellow Democrat.
"What we need are big solutions and big thinking, and Barack Obama is a problem-solver who thinks big," Patrick said, "It's a once-in-a-generation kind of leadership. And that's what Barack is offering us."
As Patrick spoke, his words were underscored by the sight of a still photograph of Obama, taken from behind, showing him standing before a seemingly endless sea of faces at a campaign rally.
He outlined some detailed specific policy positions, but also gently reintroduced himself as a child of a Kenyan and Kansan — a child of modest means, with reminders of the eloquence that propelled him from state senator to White House contender in four short years. Filmmaker Davis Guggenheim took footage from several of his major speeches, including his acceptance speech in Denver and his keynote address to Democrats at the 2004 convention.
Obama never mentioned his Republican rival John McCain once. The Republican candidate appeared on CNN's Larry King Live a half-hour later, and his campaign paid for a spot to air on Fox during the World Series, saying Obama is not yet ready for the job.
In Florida earlier Wednesday, McCain suggested the Democrat was getting ahead of himself:
"He's measuring the drapes! And he's planned his first address to the nation — an infomercial," McCain said. "I guess I'm old-fashioned about these things — I prefer to let the voters weigh in before presuming the outcome!"
Afterward, McCain-Palin campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds offered this e-mailed response:
"As anyone who has bought anything from an infomercial knows, the sales-job is always better than the product. Buyer beware."
Although a total cost isn't available yet, Wednesday night's Obama ad probably cost roughly $5 million to broadcast.