President Barack Obama has been all over the TV airwaves recently, sitting for interviews on “60 Minutes” on CBS, during the Army-Navy football game, and with a host of local TV stations during a visit to swing states this week. So The Hill
poses the question: Is Obama overdoing it?
The Republican primary campaign and particularly the presidential debates have dominated the media’s political agenda in recent weeks, and obviously Obama wants to take back the spotlight, but is that wise for a president with a Gallup approval rating of only 42 percent?
The basic rule of thumb is that there’s no such thing as overkill on media exposure for politicians, “especially in an era with so many channels and websites to choose from,” Julian Zelizer, a professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, told The Hill.
But, “there is a danger particularly in a period when President Obama’s approval ratings are not great,” he said. “It is one thing to be new or relatively unknown and get some air time, quite another to be disliked and appear too much,” he said. “My guess is the White House still thinks the former logic holds true.”
Ace Democratic consultant Doug Schoen is less diplomatic. He says Obama should be focusing on substantive policy issues rather than turning into campaigner in chief. The president is “making up for [a] perceived weakness of his record and accomplishments with widespread visibility,” Schoen told The Hill.
Obama “should be less visible and focus more on substantive policies to fix our economy, get our fiscal house in order and improve the quality of life, specifically eschewing partisanship to find a compromise with Republicans to extend the payroll tax cut and extend unemployment insurance benefits,” Schoen said.
The importance of the competition for attention Obama faces from the Republican presidential campaign can’t be minimized, especially after the onslaught of Republican candidate debates.
“All of the attention is going to the GOP primary burlesque show, and it’s been like a reality show merged with a circus. But that’s where all the attention is,” said Robert Thompson, founding director of Syracuse University’s Center for Television and Popular Culture.
“All these appearances are a way to keep him in that narrative loop,” Thompson told The Hill.
Bucking conventional wisdom, Thompson said Obama’s weakness may actually necessitate more media appearances. “When your administration isn’t go so well, sometimes less is more,” he said. “But I don’t think you can remain silent or people think you’ve got this in the bag.”
At this point, most Democrats and Republicans are fixed in their views of Obama, so he’s trying to woo independents.
“In the end, when you’re appearing on these programs, it all boils down to the people who are negotiating” how to vote, Thompson said. “That’s who all of these campaigns are for.”
In many of his appearances, Obama is working the soft sell, rather than focusing on policy. For example, at the Army-Navy game, he told viewers he played football in ninth grade but then realized he was better built for basketball.
Democratic strategist Phil Singer says Obama may be doing the right thing. “It makes total sense,” he told The Hill. “The president’s greatest asset, besides his wife, is himself. He is more popular than his agenda, so it makes perfect sense to let the country fall in love with the guy they saw in 2008 and 2009.”
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