Chicago Sun-Times
The scoop from Washington

Brand Obama bruised in Pennsylvania. Rocker Mellencamp stumps with Obama Tuesday night in Indiana.

| 4 Comments

No matter what happens in Pennsylvania, John Mellencamp will join Obama in Evansville, Indiana Tuesday night at a rally in the state with May 6 vote.

(Below is my column from the Tuesday print Chicago Sun-Times)

PHILADELPHIA -- The Obama team has always been very conscious and protective of the Sen. Barack Obama "brand." After a tough Pennsylvania contest, Obama's brand is bruised. Obama is not as pristine as he once was. He's had to deal with a series of controversies and he's gone negative against Sen. Hillary Clinton -- as she has attacked him.

In this historic election, Obama's high pedestal was cut down a few feet in Pennsylvania, his hardest fight so far.

Some of the most dramatic chapters of the Obama campaign, launched February 2007, have occurred just these past weeks in Pennsylvania.

Last month, over at The Constitution Center, near Independence Hall, Obama delivered a speech on race and inflammatory comments from his controversial pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. Wright still lingers as a general election issue should Obama be the Democratic nominee. His speech could be a plus long term.

The question of whether Obama is an "elitist" was raised after he said at a San Francisco fund-raiser that some in small-town Pennsylvania were "bitter" and so they "cling" to God and guns. In Altoona, Obama went bowling to get in touch with his inner blue collar -- even though it's not his sport. He rolled a gutter ball. But that's not all bad; the footage did not end up as a metaphor for his campaign and the humiliation factor was minor.

During the debate last week, questions about Obama's relationship with William Ayers, the former Weather Underground member/Chicago educator, pushed the story into the mainstream press. But the Obama team shut the guilt-by-association problem down -- for now, at least -- by bringing up pardons President Bill Clinton handed to Weather Underground members.

With all this, Obama returned to the park area near the Constitution Center on Friday night to rally a crowd of 35,000. Democratic registration in Philadelphia and its suburbs is soaring.

One of Obama's closing ads hits Clinton on her health care plan and goes too far in claiming she will garnish wages to help pay for health insurance. But the Obama ad is a conventional political response, not quite the "brand" image.

"They made a very serious choice that will have long-standing consequences to put their brand at stake in order to try to deliver this knockout blow, that they've been campaigning about this -- you know, with this notion of politics of hope. I don't think that that's how they've behaved," said Clinton strategist Geoff Garin.

Said Obama communications chief Robert Gibbs, "We don't take brand advice from the Clinton campaign.''

4 Comments

well, i still wanna know the dollar amount of this "brand". who is being PAID on the obama campaign? where's the money goin'? media and media buys (axelrod)?
now we'll see the downfall of the effort...michael moore, move on...yea right:-)!! my fellow american's follow the money.
i approve this ad!!

Mike Moore makes great docs. But he needs to remember WE STILL BLAME HIM FOR PUSHING RALPH NADER ON THE SAME VULNERABLE, IGNORANT AGE DEMO THAT OBAMA NOW EXPLOITS.
Any Obama supporter who thinks it is okay for a candidate or his operation to AVOID any media member, to threaten any journalist or blogger, or that it’s okay to REMOVE a journalist the messiah points out from the press pool (go to the link here and read the account of the McClatchey journalist at the Obama/Daily Show event: http://blogs.suntimes.com/sweet/2008/04/on_the_daily_show_with_jon_ste.html#comments)
needs to really think about what kind of president such a person would be.
Hilary takes the blows. And keeps on going.
No need for a sausage eating photo op—she just deals with things.
Angellight/Julie Mack, Matt, John E—and any other seemingly paid blogger for Obama HQ—just hold tight a minute.
ASK yourself why your potential employer or heart throb or whatever the heck he is for you:
Needs and has the support of the white male over 30 controlled mass media right now?
Why is CBS letting him get away right now with dodging the debate AGREED TO LONG AGO?
Could there be questions about the water MSNBC/GE nuke power plant builder is carrying for the “Senator” who got 300 G from Exelon after watering down a nuke reg bill in IL, voted for Dick Cheney’s 2005 Energy bill with 29 new nukes:
Look how they distorted the fingering of Hilary episode.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YTJs0VRJLO8
The above is the original 43 second plus IN ORDER and with the VOLUME UP as Obama mentions Hilary and fingers her.
When you open below, you’ll see a clip of MSNBC you can roll on.
http://mediamatters.org/items/200804180010
MSNBC took it OUT OF ORDER and potted down the volume of Obama mentioning Hilary—didn’t even leave the nat sound up on background but also had the anchor speaking over it. She LIED and says it “took a while to get to” the flip off. THEY ARE DISTORTING THE ORDER OF THE TAPE.
And then Jon Stewart, whom I normally respect, carried Obama’s dirty water last night, running the MSNBC version of the tape.
Was there a promise that Obama would be a regular on the show and help Comedy Central’s ratings if Jon aired the distorted version? And allowed Barack to call people calling this a finger flip ‘paranoid’?
It speaks to statesmanship.
Another White boy who doesn’t get it? Michael Moore—who gave a diatribe about Hilary yesterday. Apparently he missed Hillary painting Petreus into a corner a few weeks ago—now the Bushies must bring to Congress any possible peace plan.
Brilliant!
And ignored by the mainstream white male media and the white male comedy and don’t get me started on the left establishment.
The ultra-left was run by a bunch of sexist piggies who were quite happy to let the women clean up and club house—and the women who stuck with them were more than happy to do just that. They deferred getting degrees, for the most part. And they are the opposite of Hillary.
So why didn’t Michael Moore berate Michelle over the man who the U of C system let die—similar to the examples deftly depicted in Sicko? Cuz he’s part of the “I know best” wing of the ultra left.
The American media hasn’t covered how U of C hospital let a guy die.. Here’s a link to an article which does—and it’s openly biased with its use of adjectives—but the facts itself seem solid.
http://www.dailymail.co.uk/pages/live/femail/article.html?in_article_id=517824&in_page_id=1879
So, all the koolaid drinking bloggers take note: If you’re paid to harass us on the blogs; if the guy is censoring journalists now—what will he do to journalism and free speech while in the White House?

FIRST THE BOSS, AND NOW THE COUGAR, OBAMA FOR PRESIDENT!
HILLARY IS BROKE AND THAT'S NO JOKE!
SNIPER FIRE OVERHEAD, SHOT AND A BEER TIME, DON'T WORRY HILLARY
OBAMA WILL SOON PUT YOU OUT OF YOUR MISERY, PAY YOUR BILLS AND
GO BACK TO NEW YORK!
BARACK OBAMA FOR PRESIDENT, MCCAIN YOU'RE NEXT, AND OBAMA WILL
GOBBLE HIM UP LIKE PAC-MAN!
MCCAIN CAN'T RAISE MONEY EITHER!

I thought Leslie Singer's article on political branding added a very insighful angle to this topic:

I Knew Jack Kennedy and You’re No Brand!
Leslie Singer

Voters’ ears are replete with news reports betraying the media’s desire to attach brand equity to our current slate of three presidential candidates. Well, I have some bad news for you—the current slate of candidates has yet to promulgate any distinctive branding, not in the way say a Jack Kennedy or a Ronald Reagan projects brand equity.

Brands are iconic; they are far more than ethereal fads or trends. Jack Kennedy was the scion of a family brand, and his surname was rich with iconography. Icons are about rituals, legacies, and a voice that keeps resonating long after they pass. Kennedy is about Hyannis Port, touch football games, hair blowing on a sailboat, PT-109, a rocking chair in the oval office, a handsome face that informs a sense of aesthetics to sensory branding. Though he was a well-known womanizer, even Kennedy’s dalliances were part of the brand fabric. Kennedy’s memorable Cold War “Ich bin ein Berliner” speech is legendary, not just for the fact that his snowclone was a misstatement and actually meant “I am a jelly doughnut.” Kennedy lives on as an icon in our cultural fabric—and he has been dead since 1963.

Reagan had brand equity through and through. A Hollywood B-movie star, he was a hero in the movies and would become a hero on the world stage. His lifelong nickname, The Gipper, came from his film role as George Gipp in Knute Rockne, All American. When Reagan stood up to the Soviet Union, he certainly won one for the Gipper. Without flinching, the Russians blinked, and the rest is history as the walls came tumbling down in the breakup that followed. The label “Reaganomics” has worked itself into our vernacular and the words “tear down that wall” will live in infamy.
And like Kennedy, Reagan had an aura of the virile American. He looked good on a horse and comfortable with a gun and, unlike, Kennedy even looked good on the big screen. He resonated a masculine power in his blue jeans and flannel shirt, with the love of his life on his arm. This is the stuff that icons are made of and create brands that are true.

Today’s slate of candidates has yet to develop a brand conscience in the minds of voters. McCain certainly owns his space representing the heroism of the Vietnam era, albeit he is not a brand. Hillary seems to permeate with a “More of the Same” message when compared with Obama. But neither of them are a brand. If anything, time will tell if there will be a “Brand Clinton.” If there is, it will be in tribute to Bill—Hillary will get the residue of the label. For his part, Obama may be closer to resonating with the voters as “Brand Hope.” His unflinching message of Change is idealistic in a way that is fresh and new. If he stays on target and goes head to head with McCain, the articulation of “Brand Hope” may galvanize the American voters to land him in the White House. But to call any of them a “brand” is mistaking the meaning of the word. They are “candidates”—a mere moment in time on the radar screen of our political arm wrestling. They could become a brand when they accomplish things that resonate for the long term, when long past their tenure their names are used to drive home a point or used as a noun or stand for something that becomes culturally significant.

If Hillary doesn’t win, her relevance will be diminished; ergo she can’t be a brand. Same for Obama and McCain. They are all just players, like George McGovern, Ross Perot, John Kerry, John Edwards, Rudy Guliani, Joe Biden, Mitt Romney, Chris Dodd and hundreds of others have been. Just because you are in the news, doesn’t make you a brand. When you start changing the news, you are on your way. When you fulfill a promise that changes lives and impacts our culture in a way that resonates in the history books, then you are a brand. Anything less, you are a just a moment in time.

Leslie Singer
President and Chief Creative Officer
G2 Branding and Design

Leave a comment

Get the Sweet widget

More widgets

Video

Lynn Sweet

Lynn Sweet is a columnist and the Washington Bureau Chief for the Chicago Sun-Times.

Stay in touch

About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Lynn Sweet published on April 22, 2008 12:05 PM.

Democratic debate, Obama "bitter" comment dominate news coverage was the previous entry in this blog.

Pennsylvania unlikely to change the dynamic of the race is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.