‘SNL’ Playing a Role

Oct 26, 2008  •  Post A Comment

As the presidential election nears, there is a question about whether Sen. John McCain could be facing not just the bad economy and voters’ dislike of George Bush, but a “Tina Fey problem.”
Pollster Dick Bennett, head of Manchester, N.H.-based American Research Group, said Ms. Fey’s portrayal of GOP vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin on “Saturday Night Live” repeatedly surfaces in voter interviews, though ARG doesn’t ask about Ms. Fey.
“Tina Fey has done more to hurt Sarah Palin and John McCain than anyone,” Mr. Bennett said.
He said Republicans and independents who initially gave the McCain campaign a second look after the unexpected selection of the Alaska governor as running mate, helping reinvigorate the McCain campaign, now point to Ms. Fey’s parodying.
“Tina Fey made a joke of the criticisms about Palin and made them real to people,” Mr. Bennett said.
While vice presidential choices traditionally don’t much affect voters’ presidential choice, Mr. Bennett suggested it may be different this year.
“It matters because her pick and her speech at the Republican convention re-energized the race and made independents take another look at McCain,” he said. “[Palin] is the reason for the renewed interest and it worked for a little bit. Then events and the economy came into play.”
Mr. Bennett said he was stunned that Gov. Palin, in appearing on “Saturday Night Live” Oct. 18, didn’t humorously respond to the portrayal with some comment on the Obama campaign but instead played along.
“She was the reason for the increased ratings,” he said. “She could have demanded a lot.”
He pointed especially to an opening skit in which Gov. Palin appeared with Lorne Michaels and Alec Baldwin, then replaced Ms. Fey’s fake Sarah Palin at a news conference.
“At the end, she said, ‘I’m not going to answer any of your questions’ [before doing the ‘Live from New York’ introduction]. What a dumb thing to say. It supports all the criticism [of her] in the media.”
Other pollsters, however, expressed doubt that Gov. Palin is having much of a negative effect on the McCain campaign, and GOP pollsters said she continues to have a positive impact—despite publicity about a $150,000 wardrobe purchase.
“It doesn’t matter what Tina Fey does to Sarah Palin. It’s what Wall Street did to John McCain,” said Peter A. Brown, assistant director of the Quinnipiac University Polling Institute. “Everything takes a back seat to that.”
He said while the choice of Gov. Palin may prove to be a bit negative for Sen. McCain, what’s driving the election is voters’ worry about their jobs, their retirement and the economic future.
“Will [Palin] help Obama? Maybe a tad, but it is Wall Street that will put him across the line,” Mr. Brown said.
Several GOP pollsters indicated that the only problem with Gov. Palin’s candidacy might be that publicity about her wardrobe has made it harder for the McCain campaign’s message to break through.
“It’s more of a distraction right now,” John McLaughlin of McLaughlin & Associates said of the Palin wardrobe issue. “It takes the media oxygen. It will be gone tomorrow or the day after. The reality is that people are concerned about whether they have a job, the value of their home and whether their taxes will go up. I’ve never seen an election so consumed with [the economy].”
Ed Goeas, president and CEO of GOP research and strategy organization the Tarrance Group, said Gov. Palin has helped Sen. McCain with his Republican base and with independent voters.
“She kind of resurrected the maverick outsider label, and she’s gotten a lot of attention,” he said.
Mr. McLaughlin and Mr. Goeas said the election remains close, and Mr. Goeas said he has seen no indication that Gov. Palin is doing anything but helping Sen. McCain. He said his polls show her positive numbers rising.
Media buyers and analysts say that as the election moves into its closing weeks, the intensity of advertising is growing, but not everywhere. Besides traditional swing states such as Ohio, Pennsylvania and Missouri, this year TV stations in North Carolina, Virginia and several other states have drawn ads.
North Carolina has benefited as U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Dole’s re-election race became competitive, adding to hotly contested races for governor and for president.
“We are able to accommodate all the presidential campaigns, but we are asking [third-party advertisers and political action committees] to cut back a little, and move some of their spots from oversold news areas,” said John Barcelo, national sales manager for WCNC-TV, Belo’s NBC affiliate in Charlotte, N.C. He said political spending in the market is turning out higher than expected, helping to balance out shortages caused by the country’s economic problems.
Evan Tracey, chief operating officer of TNS Media Intelligence’s Campaign Media Analysis Group, said some stations are seeing major benefits from politics, but others aren’t getting any money. He said the McCain campaign cut back on its ads in Colorado, Maine, Wisconsin and New Hampshire. The campaign also decided to cease doing joint TV ads with the Republican National Committee.
Mr. Tracey said political advertising this year appears unlikely to reach the $3 billion first projected, and probably will come in closer to the $2.5 billion of two years ago. While 2006 didn’t have a presidential race, it had gubernatorial and senatorial races in a number of bigger states.
About $750 million of this year’s total is due to the presidential race. Mr. Tracey attributed the shortfall to the lack of 527 committees getting involved as they did four years ago. Four years ago about $1.7 billion was spent on political ads.


  1. Amazing freakin blog here. I almost cried while reading it!

  2. I love the expression. Everyone needs to express there own opinion and feel free to hear others. Keep it up 🙂

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