Most politicians know that Friday evening announcement serve to bury bad news in the weekend news cycles. By Friday evening, most people have left their houses to entertain themselves, and stop paying close attention to news until the next Monday. With the end of the Olympics approaching, that may be more true this weekend than most.
According to George Stephanopolous, Barack Obama plans to make his running-mate announcement in this Dead Zone:
But what if the Obama campaign announces the vp — via campaign text and email blast to supporters — on Friday when more people will be sitting at home, watching the Olympics?
Noting all signs point to Saturday, ABC News’ Chief Washington Correspondent George Stephanopoulos said a Friday announcement might have political benefits too.
“Just about every indication that I have, Charlie, from people close to the process, is that they’re going to try to hold this until Saturday,” Stephanopoulos told ABC’s Charlie Gibson on World News Thursday night. “To get the word out just a little bit before Barack Obama and the pick show up in Springfield, Illinois.”
However, Stephanopoulos said the Obama campaign wants to make sure that all the people who signed up to get the message on their cell phones or blackberries are in a position to receive them — for maximum impact.
“So it could come tomorrow night during the Olympics,” Stephanopoulos said, noting that technology experts estimate high usage between 8pm and 10pm on weeknights.
That’s mighty impressive spin. Most young people won’t stay home on a Friday to watch sports; they’ll go out. The Olympics has generated decent ratings; NBC is smashing the competition, but the ratings are in the 20 range, not exactly a national phenomenon as it was in years gone by. Bloomberg also reports that the ratings have declined since Michael Phelps ended his amazing run.
An announcement on Friday evening or Saturday morning puts it in a low-media zone. News junkies will catch the analysis immediately, but the rest of the nation will miss it. More importantly, waiting until the weekend means that the announcement will come while most delegates to the convention will be in transit to Denver. The very people Obama wants to enthuse will miss it.
Why not announce yesterday, when the choice could have dominated the media cycle for a couple of days while people were still paying attention? Given Obama’s dropping poll numbers, he needs big media buzz, and he could have used it this week, apart from the convention. Either Obama wants to wait until the convention to announce, or he has a confidence problem in his selection — and he wants the media scrutiny to hit when people aren’t paying attention.
If he announces at the convention, it’s going to be Hillary Clinton. A Hillary selection works best at the convention, providing a dramatic moment of unity. If he waits until the media Dead Zone, I’d guess either Joe Biden or Evan Bayh. However, one very pragmatic problem comes with Hillary: her debt. She only retired $1.3 million off of a debt that surpassed $20 million, and that would kill Obama’s fundraising advantage over McCain — and that’s without counting the RNC’s whopping advantage over the DNC.