Obama’s getting desperate

Yet more proof that Obama and his bunch aren’t so sure they really have this election in the bag.

From James Hibbard’s The Live Feed

Exclusive: Obama buys half-hour of network primetime

83178871 Barack Obama has purchased a half-hour of airtime on CBS, sources confirm.

The Obama campaign will air a half-hour primetime special on Wednesday, Oct. 29, at 8 p.m.

Sources say the Obama camp is also in talks with NBC and Fox. NBC is said to be very near a deal. With Fox, the matter is likely to remain uncertain as the time period could conflict with Game 6 of the World Series.

A CBS spokesperson declined comment. The buy will push comedy “The New Adventures of Old Christine” to 8:30 p.m. and pre-empt “Gary Unmarried.” The buy is being placed by Washington-based ad firm GMMB.

The direct purchase of such a large block of national airtime right before an election used to be more commonplace before campaigns began to focus their end game strategies exclusively on battleground states. Such a move is not without precedent in modern presidential politics, however — Ross Perot did a similar purchase in 1992.

This year has seen the first time in many years that presidential campaigns have bought national broadcast TV advertisements. In the past 12 years, much of the billions of dollars in political advertising spent has gone to local TV stations in battleground states. While some money has gone to national cable channels, the thinking has always been that it would be more prudent to target battleground states’ voters instead of addressing the entire nation, including states that reliably vote for one party or another.

The first instance was in August, when Obama spent $5 million and McCain spent $6 million, each to advertise in NBC’s coverage of the Summer Olympics from Beijing. The networks’ evening newscasts have also seen campaign ads for the first time in years. Before that, the last nationally broadcast campaign ad ran in the 1996 campaign.

The Obama campaign earlier this year opted out of the public financing system, which meant that it was free to raise and spend as much as it could. It has, in states like Michigan, outspent the publicly financed McCain campaign by a margin of at least 3-to-1.

It’s not unprecedented for a candidate to buy longform broadcast network time, though it hasn’t happened in a while. In October 1992, Perot drew audiences of 16.5 million and 10.5 million for 30-minute lectures/campaign ad aimed at voters. But in Perot’s second run in 1996, the candidate was rebuffed by the Big Four networks in an attempt to sell airtime. The FCC backed the networks in denying Perot airtime, saying that they acted legally in refusing.

Earlier this year, the Hillary Clinton campaign bought time on the Hallmark Channel, a nearly fully distributed cable channel, for a town-hall meeting before Super Tuesday.

Obama has run many 30-second spots across the country, and one two-minute spot that was particularly effective among experts where Obama directly faced the camera and spoke to viewers about being able to feel their economic pain.

While broadcast networks in the past have given presidential candidates free time for campaign statements in the final days before the election, those were done in the news programs — outside the expensive primetime hours.

From the start, Obama has been more focused on primetime than any other Presidential candidate. Defying conventional wisdom to have political ads clustered around local news, during the primary season the Obama campaign poured 40% of its TV cash in primetime, compared with about 18% for Clinton.

More details to come …

— Nellie Andreeva and Paul J. Gough contributed to this report

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