October 27, 2008

The Media Cover for Obama

by Camila Perez Gabilondo

With the presidential election only eight days away, Senator Barack Obama decided to leave the campaign trail for two days to visit his ill grandmother in his home state of Hawaii. This is a historical occurrence since no presidential candidate before him had abandoned the campaign this close to an election. Obama was absent at his scheduled rallies in Wisconsin and Iowa this past week, leaving his running mate Senator Joseph Biden and his surrogates on the trail. This could have been a chance for candidate Senator John McCain to make the most of the final stretch of the campaign in his favor, but Obama had an important player on his side: the media.

Thanks to media coverage of his personal hardship, Obama's absence was not felt at all. Over the last several days, countless articles on his grandmother's condition and the tragedy it entails for the presidential candidate were published in diverse media, including The New York Times and The Washington Post. Not to mention that his ads continued to run. We could say that he was just as present, or even more so, in the media than if he had actually gone to his rallies as planned.

Besides, the emotional note that many journalists included in their coverage of the story certainly helped strengthen Obama's image as a sensitive family man, as well as inspire sympathy in the public. Obama was quoted numerous times saying that these were probably his grandmother's last days, and in an interview with Good Morning America, he stated: "Without going through the details too much, she's gravely ill. We weren't sure and I'm still not sure whether she makes it to Election Day." Most articles also included quotes of Obama mentioning his grandmother's importance in his life during the campaign, or even the fact that he affectionately calls her "toot", the short form of the Hawaiian word for grandparent, "tutu."

The media have managed to make most of us sympathetic with Barack Obama's situation, and his current personal struggle has, even if mildly, tugged at our heart strings. If this has not helped Obama's campaign, it has certainly not harmed it.

(Political graphic © copyright Comandante Agi and used with permission; you can see more of the comandante's political graphics at his blogs, PIME and Guys from Area 51.)

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