It is the most intriguing political question of the day. What will Barack Obama do with the 30 minutes of network TV time he has purchased on CBS and NBC (and possibly Fox) October 29? With Obama surging in the polls and doing well in the first two debates, it’s a very curious move.
Assuming Obama does well in his third debate Wednesday (and there is no reason to think he will falter), then why does he need more airtime? I mean the polls are now swinging his way in Ohio, North Carolina, Florida, Virginia and maybe even West Virginia. The way things are trending he will crush John McCain November 4.
No one saw this coming, including me. Three weeks ago this race was dead even, and we were barreling straight towards another one-state victory as we had in 2000 and 2004. Then the trap door opened, and the bottom just dropped out of the U.S. and world economies. (No one saw that coming either). So, as the economy sank, so too did the fortunes of the incumbent party in the White House. Since George W. Bush is termed out, the weight was tied to John McCain’s ankle as his campaign was flung overboard into a treacherous economic ocean.
That’s not to say Obama has this election locked up. The world pendulum could take another ugly swing over the next three and a half weeks, and the momentum could shift back to McCain.
According to Reuters, Obama, who is making the current economic crisis the center of his campaign, did not say whether the date of the TV special -- the 79th anniversary of the catastrophic 1929 stock market crash -- was significant.
"We're going to be talking about it," he said in response to a reporter's question, according to Reuters.
Here are a couple possible themes. Despite his surge in the polls, there is still unease in many quarters about Obama’s lack of experience, especially in foreign affairs. While he has been praised for how he’s calmly handled those questions in the debate, he simply has not been tested like McCain has.
So, Obama’s goal may simply be to talk directly to voters, without a reporter or moderator in between himself and the public. Ronald Reagan was a master at this, and maybe Obama is borrowing a page from the “Gipper’s” playbook.
Obama may also be worried about the so-called “Bradley effect.” That was a term used to describe a polling phenomenon in California and later in other states. Black Los Angeles Mayor Tom Bradley ran for Governor and was ahead in all the polls, but he lost. Pollsters later found out that many white voters had said they would vote for Bradley - even though they had no intention of doing so - out of fear they would be labeled racists. On Election Day, they voted for the other candidate, who beat Bradley. It’s a phenomenon that has been replicated with some black candidates in some other states as well.
Not leaving anything to chance, Obama may just want to assure uncertain voters six days before the election that he is ready. His calm demeanor in the debates may help him to that end, and he may just want 30 minutes of uninterrupted airtime to seal the deal.
Obama also continues to be plagued by internet rumors that he is Muslim (He is a member of the United Church of Christ, a Christian denomination) and that he was born in Kenya (He was actually born in Hawaii; the birth certificate copy is in the upper photo box). But polls continually show about 15 percent of the population believes both rumors. If the election tightens again, and I think it will just because of undecided voters, then he may have to make his case directly to the public.
Since Obama has by far surpassed McCain in fundraising, he can afford to buy the expensive network time. Now we just have to find out what he really wants to say.
I’ll keep blogging up to Election Day and beyond. Keep coming back to www.MarkCurtisMedia.com.