Tuesday, September 16, 2008

McCain, Obama Fighting a Media Fog

Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain are wrestling with a new media dynamic in how national campaigns are conducted, as both candidates work through a media fog of blog postings, cable television headlines, television advertisements, speeches by other candidates and surrogates, video press releases, screaming e-mailed charges and counter-charges — not to mention the old-fashioned newspaper article or broadcast report on the evening news, writes Adam Nagourney of The New York Times.

Matthew Dowd, who was the chief strategist for President Bush’s re-election campaign in 2004, said that given a proliferation of news sources — and the fact that so many once-trusted news organizations are under attack — campaigns would be wise to discard the standard playbook.

Mr. Dowd went so far as to suggest that Mr. McCain and Mr. Obama were wasting their money on television advertisements, and that they would be better off preparing for the coming debates. Those encounters, he said, are likely to be the only chance the candidates have at capturing the undivided attention of the public.

“At this point, the ability to create and drive a message narrative is all but impossible,” he said. “There’s just so much stuff. The average person has 90 channels. They all get the dot-coms. They all get a newspaper. There is so much flow of information that they just to begin to discount it all.”

Beyond that, he suggested, in this increasingly partisan atmosphere — one in which the dueling campaigns are accusing each other of lying, and where Mr. McCain has made an orchestrated attempt to discredit news organizations — voters are no longer as apt to accept what they hear as truth.

“They distrust — more and more — the marketplace of the campaign,” Mr. Dowd said.

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