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Late-Night Obama Jokes Rise as His Standing Falls

James Hirsen By Tuesday, 02 November 2010 03:13 PM EDT Current | Bio | Archive

The Left Coast Report: A Political Look at Hollywood

Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):
1. Celebrities Twinkle for Democratic Voter Turnout
2. Obama’s Midterm Media Blitz Misses Target
3. TV Grabs Lion’s Share of Record Political Bucks
4. Stewart and Colbert’s Rally Restores Inanity
5. Late-Night Obama Jokes Rise as His Standing Falls

1. Celebrities Twinkle for Democratic Voter Turnout

A slew of Hollywood celebrities have lent their names and images to the Democrats’ get-out-the-vote effort.

Rock the Vote’s public service announcement (PSA) features an all-star cast that includes Joaquin Phoenix, Kate Walsh, Dane Cook, Nick Cannon, Casey Affleck, and Wayne Brady. The message to young people is to “Vote Fearlessly.”

The PSA has aired on CBS and Hulu.com, among other outlets.

Additional Hollywood luminaries appeared in a video posted on the Funny or Die website. The ad says that since voting only takes 10 minutes there are far worse ways to spend the time. Among them: Alyssa Milano suggests talking to your parents about the first time they had sex; Kal Penn quips that you could stay on hold with your insurance company to dispute a denied claim; Mary Lynn Rajskub (Chloe on “24”) wisecracks about selling raw meat to people stuck in traffic.

Ron Livingston of “Sex and the City” and Eric McCormack of “Will & Grace” also appear in the spot.

A block of youth-serving organizations came together to initiate a campaign called “Vote Again 2010.”

“Vote Again” used a video contest for young adults to motivate their peers to hit the polls, and rapper John Forté promoted the competition in an ad.

Perez Hilton and Nas recorded additional spots.

Rapper Jay-Z did a PSA for another youth vote group called HeadCount, which enlisted 50 music celebs to help round up the youth vote. Others include John Mayer, Tom Petty, MGMT, Dave Matthews Band, Passion Pit, and Jack Johnson.

The group registered more than 100,000 voters in 2008. This year it only registered around 10,000 voters.

2. Obama’s Midterm Media Blitz Misses Target

President Barack Obama engaged in a last-minute media blitz to gin up left-of-center support for Democratic candidates in the midterm elections.

Welcoming softballs, the president appeared in a series of friendly venues, which included the radio shows of Obama supporters Michael Smerconish and Al Sharpton.

Obama also appeared on a Univision radio show to reach Latino voters and in a moment of unusual candor said, “We’re gonna punish our enemies and we’re gonna reward our friends who stand with us on issues that are important to us.” This was particularly remarkable language coming from Obama, since he is so reluctant to use the “e word” even to describe those who actually want to annihilate us.

At a critical time for his party, the president chose to grace a comedy network’s fake news show with his presence, snubbing other broadcast and cable networks. Obama is the first sitting president to appear on “The Daily Show” for a schmooze with comedian Jon Stewart.

Evidently, he wanted to excite the same young voters who turned out in the 2008 election. He failed. The magic has vanished along with the hope and change.

Obama sounded defensive in the face of Stewart’s mild questioning. The liberal audience broke out in laughter when the president altered his campaign slogan to “Yes we can – but...”

An abundance of news anchors would have given their left arms to interview Obama, and most would have dutifully assisted him.

Of course, the president is avoiding Fox News like a domestic vacation, a network that only a month ago he characterized as a “destructive” influence on the media.

Too bad, really. It’s a pretty safe bet that if he had sat down with a real anchor, he would at least have been accorded the respect of being called President Dude.

3. TV Grabs Lion’s Share of Record Political Bucks

The midterms have been record breaking in terms of the amount of political spending and the degree of negativity.

The media often give a platform to people who complain about the tone. But this year you won’t hear any gripes from the television industry.

The Campaign Media Analysis Group predicts that political television ad spending will reach $3 billion this year ($2.4 billion was spent in the 2006 midterms and $2.7 billion in the 2008 elections).

The high rate of campaign expenditures is due to the record number of tight races, the enthusiasm to reverse Obama’s policies, and the Supreme Court decision to restore the ability of citizens to express their political beliefs as groups organized in corporate form.

Self-financed candidates such as Connecticut’s Linda McMahon, the former head of World Wrestling Entertainment, and California’s Meg Whitman, a former CEO of eBay, have spent record amounts of their own money to run for office.

With television time at a premium, local affiliates of the broadcast networks are allocating to campaigns the commercial slots usually set aside for national advertisers.

TV stations nationwide should end up with about two-thirds of the campaign dollars this year, roughly $2 billion. Direct mail will gross around $650 million and radio ads will amount to about $250 million.

The Internet and social media have transformed political fundraising. But with risks as high as they are this campaign season, the media buys are favoring traditional outlets.

Internet sites will only end up with about 2 percent of the campaign revenue, which is approximately $50 million.

Of course, there’s no way to really add up the benefits of viral video freebies — yet.

4. Stewart and Colbert’s Rally Restores Inanity

Democrats wanted to use Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s Rally to Restore Sanity this past weekend to motivate young voters to participate in the midterm elections.

The crowd was mostly Democrats. But it also contained some generally apathetic Comedy Central fans.

The three-hour rally consisted mainly of satire and comedy, with humorous sketches and musical guests including Kid Rock, Ozzy Osbourne, the O’Jays, Sheryl Crow, Tony Bennett, and the former Cat Stevens, Yusuf Islam.

In one rare quasi-political stunt, Stewart gave a “Medal of Reasonableness” to Velma Hart, the now famous voter who told Obama that she was “exhausted” from having to defend him.

A host of left-leaning organizations showed up in an apparent attempt to politicize the event. Organizing for America, Obama’s campaign entity, staked out the train station to welcome rallygoers and sign people up for get-out-the-vote tasks.

Arianna Huffington tried her best to boost attendance by paying a reported $250,000 to bus thousands from New York to D.C. for the rally.

Amnesty International, the League of Young Voters PAC, Public Citizen, and the Feminist Majority Foundation handed out materials to the youthful audience, while the George Soros-funded Media Matters collected signatures for an advertising boycott of Fox News.

Toward the end of the event, Stewart attacked extremists on both the left and the right.

In fact, the comic included footage of MSNBC hosts Keith Olbermann and Chris Matthews to show examples of media insanity.

When a reporter asked whether the rally attendees should vote in the upcoming election, the “Daily Show” host disappointed the press, the White House, and the Democrats, saying, “People should do what moves them, that’s not for me to decide.”

5. Late-Night Obama Jokes Rise as His Standing Falls

Late-night comedians were initially reluctant to make President Obama, the first African-American elected to the Oval Office, the target of their humor during the first year of his presidency.

Since then, Obama’s favorability numbers have tanked, and even his followers have lost their enthusiasm. As a result, the hosts of late-night shows are now reflecting public sentiment, placing the president in their comedic crosshairs.

According to the Center for Media and Public Affairs, Obama was the most joked about political figure this year. After his election, Obama was the fourth most joked about political figure behind John McCain, George W. Bush, and Sarah Palin.

The think tank counted the jokes up to Labor Day and found that Jay Leno, Jon Stewart, Jimmy Fallon, and yes, even David Letterman made Obama the punch line a total of 309 times.

As it turns out, similar numbers of jokes were made at the expense of former presidents George W. Bush and Bill Clinton. Sarah Palin placed a distant second, with only 137 late-night jokes.

Letterman’s jokes focus on Obama being a one-term president. Much of the other late-night humor portrays the president as uninterested in his job.

I’ve coined the term “Late-Night Comic Indicator” and will keep tabs on the phenomenon.

My prediction? For the midterm elections, the current indicator bodes ill for Obama and, by extension, the Democrats.

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The Left Coast Report: A Political Look at Hollywood Headlines (Scroll down for complete stories):1. Celebrities Twinkle for Democratic Voter Turnout 2. Obama s Midterm Media Blitz Misses Target 3. TV Grabs Lion s Share of Record Political Bucks4. Stewart and Colbert s...
Tuesday, 02 November 2010 03:13 PM
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