As a rule, you generally don’t bring in the contractors to start turning the garage into a third bedroom before your new house is in escrow, much less before your offer is accepted. That’s why it was rather curious to see Mitt Romney hit the airwaves this weekend with an ad assailing Hillary Clinton’s taste in drapes compared to his own, at a time when the “For Sale” sign is back in the realtor’s trunk and John McCain is finishing his coffee and pulling out his checkbook.
To deploy another and perhaps more appropriate metaphor, when you’re pinned underneath a thousand-pound bookcase that is slowly squeezing the life out of you, the last phone call you want to be making is to your travel agent to plan a fall trip to Oahu.
But the art of survival is often a bit different in politics. On the most prominent advertising day of the year, America is going to be wooed by more than anthropomorphic animals and those adorable Clydesdales. Justin Timberlake may be selling Pepsi, but Mitt Romney is selling a plea for oxygen and the right to breathe another day, John McCain is selling America a chance to have its first real war hero in the White House since JFK, and Hillary and Obama are desperately trying to out-Kennedy each other with Ted and every one of Bobby and Jack’s surviving children they can lure over to their side.
With America’s preeminent sporting event kicking off at 3:28 PM this afternoon and the closest we’ve ever had to a national primary kicking off in a little over 36 hours, Sunday afternoon could be the greatest confluence of sports, politics, and commerce in American history.
Fat with $32 million in January dollars, the surging Barack Obama is mounting his own vigorous Madison Avenue push for Super Bowl eyeballs, airing a 30-second ad starting Sunday afternoon airing during the game in markets serving 24 states that are voting on Tuesday.
This is survival and a chance in one fell swoop to do for their candidacies what all their boots on the ground simply can’t do: Selling a memorable Presidential product. So you would home for some imagination in this once in a lifetime showcase. If I see another stump speech or a grainy black-and-white shot of one candidate or another with a dripping, snarling voiceover about how much they’ve raised my taxes, I’m going to keep walking to the kitchen. If I’m an average voter and you want my attention–and my vote–I want to see John McCain comparing a watery bowl of soup to the gruel that was forced upon him in the Hanoi Hilton, and demanding a bowl of Campbell’s Chunky Fully Loaded, and marveling, “Now this is the kind of meal that can unchain my tastebuds.”
I want to see Mitt Romney for Eggo Waffles (hell, bring him out for the coin toss–”Heads I’m for the Bush tax cuts, tails against…I’m just kidding! The Giants have called heads…”).
I want to see Senator Obama cavorting with the Miller Lite dalmatian, or sharing a Mountain Dew with a digitally-reanimated Harry S Truman, or the dead President putting a dollar in a 7-Up vending machine, saying to the camera, “The buck stops here“, as he and Barack share a laugh.
I want to see Hillary giving an empassioned address against the Iraq war from the well of the Senate and suddenly segue into a pitch to bring our troops home so they can take advantage of DirecTV’s new Platinum package with more HD channels than ever.
If you’re one of the six Presidential survivors, this isn’t a day to be all about principles and platforms and positions. You’ve got 95 million pairs of eyeballs before you–that’s 95 million potential voters. You want to sell them democracy, you’ve got all spring, summer, and fall to sell them that–assuming you get the nomination first. Today, the people want to be entertained and to have that itch scratched. You can be a leader tomorrow. Today, you’re all about beer, soda, and chips. And there’s no better way to sell yourself as a Good American than by appealing to America’s crassest, basest commercial sensibilities on today, the highest consumer holy day in the land.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I want to see which of my next potential Presidents is going to sell me a Hot Pocket.