Obama's extremely stylish new ad.

Obama's extremely stylish new ad.

Obama's extremely stylish new ad.

Who's winning, who's losing, and why.
Sept. 19 2007 5:48 PM

Obama Stands Alone

His very stylish new ad.

The first frame suggests how different Barack Obama's new ad will be from the ones that have come before. Previous Obama ads have focused on his biography—lots of black-and-white photographs of him teaching and organizing, countering the idea that he lacks experience, and huge crowd shots attesting to his popularity.

In this ad, Obama is all alone. He stands in the vacant rooms of a really swish house. I don't know what the good people of Iowa will think when they see the warm molding, subtle drapes, tended ivy, and carefully arranged knickknacks, but my first reaction is to look for my Restoration Hardware catalog. Others may want to book their next vacation in the Tuscan villa where it appears the ad was shot.


Obama can't step out for coffee without 10,000 people showing up, so it's strange to see him alone, but he's alone because the message is about his solitary crusade to change Washington. "Every time I speak about my hope for America, the cynics in Washington roll their eyes," he says. "You see, they don't believe we can actually change politics and bring an end to decades of division and deadlock." The lone, direct-to-camera appeal is a long-standing trope. It both makes a candidate appear more commanding and creates the intimate sense that he's speaking directly to you.

Despite the new look, the ad picks up on the campaign's familiar themes. Obama is not tied to Washington and its divisiveness the way Hillary Clinton is. He's also still insisting that he's not a neophyte. "My experience tells me something very different," he says about those who roll their eyes at his plan to change Washington. "In 20 years of public service, I've brought Democrats and Republicans together to solve problems that touch the lives of everyday people." The campaign's hope is to frame all criticisms—particularly those about his lack of experience—as signs of Beltway myopia.

The ad ends with Obama moving in toward the camera so that he's nearly in your living room. "I approve this message to ask you to believe—not just in my ability to bring about real change in Washington," he says. "I'm asking you to believe in yours." Obama is not selling a tax cut or a health-care plan. He's selling a movement and a feeling. He's inviting you to come join him in the warm living room. Maybe you could bring some furniture.

John Dickerson is a co-anchor of CBS This Morning, co-host of the Slate Political Gabfest, host of the Whistlestop podcast, and author of Whistlestop and On Her Trail.