2008 Obama VS. McCain

"Fundamentals"

On September 15, 2008, the financial services firm Lehman Brothers filed for bankruptcy, igniting the financial crisis that dominated the fall season. That morning, John McCain made remarks including the comment “the fundamentals of our economy are strong.” The Obama campaigned seized the opportunity, making an ad that replayed McCain’s remarks in a way that makes him look old and out of touch. The Obama ad was aired within 24 hours of McCain’s remarks, creating a contrast between the speed and assertiveness of the Obama campaign and the unsteady nature of McCain’s remarks. This is a classic “backfire” ad, in which a candidate’s remarks are used against them. The ad also reminds us that campaigns can be strongly effected by breaking news events, which can offer an idea of how a candidate can react to a crisis. McCain had briefly pulled even in national polls in the days following the Republican convention; Obama regained the lead for good after the economic crisis.

Transcript

Museum of the Moving Image
The Living Room Candidate
"Fundamentals," Obama, 2008

[TEXT: SEPTEMBER 15, 2008. LEHMAN BROTHERS COLLAPSES. MARKETS IN TURMOIL. JOB LOSSES AT 605,000 FOR THE YEAR. FORECLOSURES AT 9800 A DAY. AND JOHN MCCAIN SAYS?]

[TEXT: September 15, 2008, 11:06am]

McCAIN: Our economy I think, still, the fundamentals of our economy are strong.

[TEXT: THE FUNDAMENTALS OF OUR ECONOMY ARE STRONG?]

McCAIN: The fundamentals of our economy are strong.

[TEXT: HOW CAN JOHN MCCAIN FIX OUR ECONOMY IF HE DOESN'T UNDERSTAND IT'S BROKEN?]

McCAIN: The fundamentals of our economy are strong.

Credits

"Fundamentals," Obama for America, 2008

Maker: Obama Media Team

Original air date: 09/16/08

From Museum of the Moving Image, The Living Room Candidate: Presidential Campaign Commercials 1952-2012.
www.livingroomcandidate.org/commercials/2008/fundamentals (accessed April 20, 2014).

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2008 Obama McCain Results

The 2008 election, which resulted in the selection of the first African-American president in the nation's history, was about change. Polls indicated that more than 80 percent of likely voters felt that the country was on the wrong track or moving in the wrong direction. For the first time since 1952, there were no candidates on either major-party ticket who have served as president or vice president.

As in 2004, the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were important issues, yet foreign policy was strongly overshadowed by the economy when the credit and mortgage crisis hit full force in September. Other economic concerns included health-care costs, energy policy, gas prices, and rising unemployment. From the primary campaigns into the general-election contest, candidates positioned themselves as agents of change. Normally it is the party out of power in the White House that calls for change. In 2008, both parties claimed to offer “change,” as opposed to “more of the same.”

The candidates made these claims in an ad war that was unprecedented in its quantity and cost. Ads were created in rapid-response fashion, timed for the increasingly fast-paced news cycle. Also, as a reflection of the shift in popular culture toward the provocative tone of the Internet, which relies on bold statements and humor to inspire “forwardability,” the 2008 ads were noticeably sharper and more aggressive than that of previous elections.

Democrat
Barack Obama for president
Joseph Biden for vice president

"Change We Can Believe In."

Barack Obama’s campaign created a number of positive ads that emphasize such words as “values” and “work,” portraying him as someone whom working-class voters can feel comfortable with. While Obama’s ads tended to be more positive in tone than McCain’s, there were also a large number of attack ads. Just as President Clinton’s 1996 ads linked Bob Dole with Newt Gingrich, nearly all of Obama’s attack ads linked John McCain with President Bush, whose approval ratings are extremely low. By linking McCain to Bush, the Obama campaign successfully undercut McCain’s image as an independent maverick.
Republican
John McCain for president
Sarah Palin for vice president

"Country First."

John McCain’s ads were mainly about Barack Obama. Following the pattern of the 2004 election, the Republican campaign used its ads to define the Democratic candidate. In addition to attempting to portray Obama as a liberal Democrat who favors tax increases, the ads also tried to suggest that he is a celebrity who isn’t ready to lead. However, with the selection of Sarah Palin as the vice-presidential candidate, the message was refined. Rather than focusing on the question of experience and readiness to be commander in chief, the later McCain ads claimed that Obama was a dangerous choice because we don't know enough about him.
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