John McCain may have been late to the World Wide Web personally, but his campaign is showing it's no stranger to the Internet as a political tool. The presumptive Republican nominee does not use e-mail and has admitted to being computer "illiterate," telling The New York Times: "I am learning to get online myself, and I will have that down fairly soon." But his Web ad "Obama Love," released last week, looks like a veteran move.
The ad features a montage of clips from the television media in expressions of rapture over his opponent, Barack Obama, while Frankie Valli's "I Can't Take My Eyes Off You" plays. MSNBC's Chris Matthews makes repeated appearances. And his now-infamous "thrill going up my leg" is co-opted as the ad's tagline.
NBC News President Steve Capus called the ad "a lovely piece of satire."
At presstime, "Obama Love" had been viewed more than 259,000 times on John McCain's YouTube channel.
"Republicans have done extraordinarily well over the years attacking the media," says Evan Tracey, COO of the campaign media analysis group at TNS.
Hillary Clinton also made much hay over what she (and Saturday Night Live) considered an obvious tonal disparity between her coverage and Obama's. But not so long ago, McCain, who cultivated a maverick persona, was the media darling. His open-ended powwows with reporters on the Straight Talk Express were the envy of other embeds covering less scintillating candidates. The press, he said, was "his base."
"There are probably a lot of Republicans who don't line up all that well with John McCain," Tracey adds. "They may not agree on global warming or drilling in [the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve], but they can all find common ground in this notion that there's this gigantic liberal media conspiracy."
It remains to be seen if the Web—an extremely effective fund-raising tool, especially for Obama—can also become a mobilizing force. "Are Republicans behind Democrats in what they do online? The answer is an unequivocal yes, in my opinion," Tracey says. "But does what Democrats do on the Web translate into votes in November? The jury's still out on that."