Politics of Timing

By Jennifer Parker

May 15, 2008 9:26am


As that remarkable Edwards-Obama endorsement event was going on on live television last night, I got the following e-mail from an Obama person: "You have to admit, no one loses a primary like our campaign."

Indeed. Today’s Note focuses on the masterstroke of political timing with which the Obama campaign  rolled out the Edwards endorsement. With one teensy endorsement from a guy who isn’t even a superdelegate, we’re suddenly not talking about that 41-point drubbing Barack Obama suffered in a swing state on Tuesday. If John Edwards doesn’t win Obama a single vote in Kentucky or anywhere else, he’s probably done his job for Obama.

In the media weeds a bit, it was even a savvier move than one might realize. Sen. Hillary Clinton had cleared her schedule on Wednesday to do a rare full round of TV interviews for the evening network and cable news — virtually ensuring full-bore coverage, her face and her argument on television screens nation-wide.

That event in Grand Rapids, Mich., was originally supposed to start at 7 pm ET. The campaign let reporters know that it would instead start at 6:20 pm ET — conveniently, just in time for the 6:30 pm start of the network news programs. At ABC, "World News" made the rare move of going live to an Obama campaign event for a precious couple of minutes, to capture the shot we’d all been waiting to see since Edwards dropped from the race.

One of the great untold stories of this campaign has been the extent to which the Obama campaign (an experienced bunch, but not as experienced as the Clinton campaign) has mastered the round-the-clock news cycle, often outflanking the Clinton folks.

The Clinton shop has scored plenty of victories, but in these last few weeks, Obama has, to a remarkable extent, kept control of the media message — and has used endorsements to their fullest extent to make that happen. The Obama campaign always seems to have a few superdelegate endorsements to roll out to blunt a negative storyline. They’ve displayed remarkable political patience — the pressure is always on the here and now, yet they have shown restraint in message rollout. (You might recall that John Kerry was ready to endorse Obama before New Hampshire, but the campaign kept him in reserve, to change the storyline after his surprising loss in the Granite State.)

The biggest coup of the Edwards endorsement may have been the timing. Thoughts?

– Rick Klein

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