Obama announces; Pawlenty fires back

Since it was no secret that President Obama would run for re-election, Republican opponents had no reason to be slow in their response.  Tim Pawlenty took the first crack today with his newest video, “A New Direction“:

Pawlenty’s immediate, polished, and pithy video response shows keen preparation and intelligence.  The fact that he was the only Republican challenger in a position to make a video like this is one more reason one more reason he was smart to form his exploratory committee when he did.

Check out the contrast in style between Pawlenty’s video and the Obama announcement:

Pawlenty’s response mimics his previous trailers/videos, with thunderous background music and a serious tone.  Recognized voices of the left (like Paul Krugman) are skillfully used to point to the flaws in Obama’s policies, and the candidate (or candidate-to-be, officially) is the star.  Since the knock on T-Paw has been that he’s too bland and “Minnesota Nice” to rile up and motivate voters, the stirring rallying cry is his way of making the election seem like the fulcrum on which the lever of history will turn (or something like that) and positioning himself as the Man Our Times Cry Out For.

Meanwhile, Obama’s laid back video focuses on volunteers.  The criticism that Obama is self-centered and self-aggrandized is counterbalanced with the low-key collection of individuals talking about what they can do to re-elect the President.  If fact, Obama doesn’t even appear in the video, though he did “send” the email to supporters that announced the video.  Significantly, the first three supporters hail from North Carolina, Colorado, and Nevada – three traditionally red states that Obama carried in 2008.

The different styles reflect two different audiences.  Obama and his campaign handlers know that his announcement video is going to make the evening news, whether it’s a thoughtful call to supporting the policies of the last two years or the President delivering an autotuned address about the wonders of Friday.  (Actually, that second option would probably get an awful lot more press, but in a not-as-good kind of way.)  So his video is directed at the people who put him in office: the ones who made phone calls, knocked on doors and urged friends and neighbors to schlep out to polling places.  The video attempts to frame his re-election as every bit the grassroots movement as his 2008 election, despite the vast advantages of incumbency.

(Also worth noting is how one Obama supporter, Ed from North Carolina, echoes an old George W. Bush talking point from 2004: “I don’t agree with Obama on everything.  But I respect him and I trust him.”)

Pawlenty’s team also knew that the President’s announcement would be  guaranteed coverage.  So his video is built to take advantage of that press exposure – and earn coverage of his own to help lift his name recognition numbers.

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