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10/10/2008 08:00:00 PM Eastern

And Now: 'The Barack Obama Show'

“Barack Obama, apply directly to the White House! Barack Obama, apply directly to the White House!”

Well, it worked for HeadOn.

The Democratic presidential candidate has bought a half-hour of airtime on at least CBS and NBC for what will become a long-form ad for his candidacy.

The move is not unprecedented—remember Ross Perot and those charts—but it is unusual for today's increasingly targeted campaigns, where key states can be culled from the herd. But flush with cash, unlike most of us, the strategy makes sense with so many states in play: Ohio, Virginia and Florida come to mind. These include states that commonly go red; many seem to be swinging Obama's way already.

The buy reminded me of my favorite political time-buying story. Don't stop me if you have heard it. I can't find a reference to it online, so it may be apocryphal. Even so, it would be a brilliant move.

It involves publisher Malcolm Forbes, father of former presidential candidate Steve Forbes, who once dabbled in politics before dabbling in just about everything else.

The millionaire Forbes, who ran for the governorship of New Jersey in 1957, supposedly bought a half-hour of TV time at 8 p.m. on the eve of the election on the only TV station that reached New Jersey.

His opponent, who was not as flush with cash, followed up by buying only a minute of airtime on the station. But he bought that minute at 7:59 p.m. and programmed it with static. TV's were turned off in droves and Forbes went down to defeat, “nosed out by a landslide,” he reportedly commented.

My fading memory places that anecdote in a coffee table book, likely with a picture of a balloon or a motorcyle or a Faberge egg on the cover, that I flipped through in a discount book store bin years back. If anyone shares my recollection of the book or knows where I can get it, let me know.

If anyone has definitive evidence that the anecdote is bogus, keep it to yourself. The story is just too good not to be true.

 

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