Does Obama Really Want Anna Wintour Doing His Campaign Ads?

Reporting on Politics and Policy.
June 4 2012 5:28 PM

The Devil Obama Knows

When you’re trying to raise $1 billion for your campaign, hobnobbing with glitzy donors is inevitable. But when one of your main messages is that your opponent is out of touch, you might want to be a little more discreet about how you do it than this.

The video—in which Vogue editor Anna Wintour (reputedly the inspiration for the editor in The Devil Wears Prada) blinks a lot and coos about all the wonderful people she gets to meet—invites the viewer to enter for a chance to win a seat at a fantastic New York City dinner with her, Sarah Jessica Parker, Michelle Obama, and, oh yes, the president. Tip to the Obama team: When reaching out to the common voter, it’s best not to make a dinner with the candidate sound like a golden ticket to Willy Wonka’s factory.

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One clue the video may have misfired: the Republican National Committee has already repurposed it for an ad of its own. The RNC wisely uses a light touch, simply replaying the original in full—along with a caption that reads, “Actual Obama Campaign Video”—alongside some of the dismal employment figures that came out the same day the video was released.

And this at a time when the Obama campaign was making political hay by highlighting Romney’s ties with wacko tycoon Donald Trump. Romney, of course, knows full well the risk he’s taking by schmoozing The Donald in Las Vegas, and seems willing to tolerate some racist conspiracy-mongering in exchange for the cash and a little credibility with the tea-party-for-Trump set.  This Obama ad, in contrast, comes across as an innocent code-switching fail: While tailoring the president’s pitch to well-heeled urban women who adore Vogue and Sex and the City, someone forgot that the same video would be seen quite differently by the rest of the country. But if it's more innocuous than Romney’s cynical embrace of Trump, it’s also more genuinely out of touch.

Surely the Obama team should know you’re supposed to wait until the doors are closed at a swank fundraiser before people start saying things that would alienate working-class voters. Oh, and make sure no one's recording.

Will Oremus is Slate's senior technology writer.

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