Talk of More Battleground States Evaporates

Palin Pick Brings Change (in Tone and Battleground)

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Evan Tracey Evan Tracey
A time-proven tactic in politics is to steal messages and themes from those behind you in the race and claim them for your own. For the first time, I believe we have seen the trailing candidate, John McCain, successfully steal themes from the leading candidate, Barack Obama. McCain picked Sarah Palin as his running-mate and has made off with Obama's theme of change, altering the tone and battleground of the campaign.

Just a few weeks ago, Obama's campaign targeted disenfranchised red-state voters to make the battleground larger and more favorable for his apparent resource advantage. But the selection of Gov. Palin has made any talk of a growing battleground seemingly evaporate. Obama has decreased ads in Alaska and Georgia, and his ad spending appears to be decreasing in states like North Carolina, Indiana, North Dakota and Florida. By contrast, the buys look to be increasing in the traditional battleground states such as Ohio and Pennsylvania.

It's not only the battleground that has changed since the Palin pick; messages and tone have changed as well. Before the Palin pick, McCain's campaign was all about Obama's celebrity, while the Obama message was aimed squarely at voters on issues surrounding energy, the economy and, yes, a few swipes at McCain, too. Since the Palin pick, the McCain message has revolved around Palin: her mistreatment at the hands of her opponents and her maverick credentials. Obama, on the other hand, has been looking to regain his footing on issues that do not involve lipstick and farm animals.

The pick of Palin brought change to this presidential race in the same way a new product can help a struggling brand. Will the launch of Palin may be enough to revive the GOP? Only time will tell, but one thing is certain: We are not done seeing change in this race. Events will drive ad spending and themes -- not any campaign's battle plan.

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Evan Tracey is the founder and president of Campaign Media Analysis Group, a TNS Media Intelligence company. See his complete bio.