The Hiller Instinct: Image campaign
After eight days in eight foreign countries, Obama has a photo album worthy of the White House. He may say he's just a candidate, but these pictures scream Oval Office. In Boston's South End, he's already Abraham Obama.
John McCain tried to get on top of the photo ops with a stop at a California oil rig, but he looked over-dressed and stiff in a Pennsylvania supermarket. His pictures with former President Bush look like two senior citizens who no longer walk when they play golf. And all his town meetings produce the same stale photos.
Even worse for McCain is how his supporters appear right behind him... tired and bored... while Obama's are in a full-throated roar.
Don't discount the impact of images on making and breaking presidents. The modern media age began with Hollywood handsome JFK... who may have won his debates with Richard Nixon just because he looked better.
Ronald Reagan, who was an actor, blurred any line left between Washington and Hollywood, surrounding himself with the symbols of America, from flags, to beer, to cowboy hats.
Images have been both kind and cruel to George Bush I and II. In 1988, when the media was wondering whether George H.W. was a wimp, he lifted his poll numbers by climbing on a fork lift in New Hampshire.
But, four years later, another picture helped him lose the White House, making it look as if all he wanted to know during a debate was when it would end.
The nation united behind George W. as he projected strength at Ground Zero, just after 9-11....
But ill-timed images claiming mission accomplished in Iraq helped divide America, and weakened him for years.
So-- rest assured-- John McCain and Barack Obama are well aware you're watching them, as well as listening. Because they know, when it comes time to vote, the eyes have it.
I'm Andy Hiller, and that's my instinct.
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