The NY Times has an interesting piece on the first page of the business section about the candidates appearing on late night TV. Although Romney appeared on the Tonight Show last March, he has not appeared on any shows during the fall campaign. In contrast, Obama has appeared on a variety of shows as has the First Lady. Why the conflicting strategies? Some ideas to follow . . .
NY Times reporter Bill Carter makes an interesting observation about the candidates' use of free publicity from late night comedy shows.
In the waning days of an intensely close election, one campaign has clearly made a caculation that the late-night audience is valuable and worth courting, while the other has mainted late-night silence.Ben LaBolt, an Obama spokeman, explained that the President views these appearances as an uncoventional avenue to undecided voters.
Most regular viewers of the news, LaBolt said, made up their minds a long time ago. So while the president has contineud to do interviews in traditional news venues, our goal in the final days of the race must be to reach voters where they are -- whether that's crisscrossing the country asking for their vote or appearing on the programs they tune into on a daily basis.Obama's appearances also appear to have been successful for him. His interview with John Stewart was watched by 2.8 million viewers, the largest for the show this year, and his appearance on the Tonight Show lifted the audience by 50%. Last month, Obama also appeared on The Late Show with David Letterman and in April on Jimmy Fallon's show. Michele appeared on Jimmy Kimmel's show.
No one from the Romney campaign responded to the reporter's inquiries. But Romney himself explained on the infamous 47% tape that he viewed Saturday Night Live as a double edged sword.
I did not do that in part because you want to show that you're fun and you're a good person, but you also want to be presidential. And 'Saturday Night Live' has the potential of looking slapstick and not presidential.There is certainly something to that. McCain's appearance four years ago certainly had a look of desperation to it. But then again, looking presidential is not Romney's problem. Looking like he's "fun and . . . a good person" has been a bit more of a challenge for him. And the other late-night interview programs do not present the opportunity for embarrassment that Saturday Night Live does. McCain's return to the Letterman show after the embarrassment of his initial cancellation was one of McCain's finest moments of the campaign.
One suspects that Romney's hesitance results from his lack confidence in his own ability to trade barbs with a late night comedian. Is that a relevant criterian for a president? I think so.