A former sitcom writer turned communications consultant on the president's election-year image.
It’s interesting that pundits talk about how President Obama is above the fray, as it were, and like to portray him as the professor he once was. That could be a dangerous comparison on a long-term basis. Not many adults want to be lectured at—let alone made to feel as though we’re not smart enough to understand what he’s talking about.
It’s not that Obama pontificates, it’s simply that he can’t help who he is, and the professor stands out very clearly.
As I wrote earlier, one test of a presidential candidate is what the average voter can say about why to support him or her in two sentences or less. After three years in office, some would surely describe Obama as, “not a brawler who knocked heads to get things done.” Well, that’d go along with the refined professorial image. Of all the two-sentence responses, being labeled professorial by average voters is one his camp should be worried about.
Still, there’s hope for the president. He may be portrayed as cold and aloof by some observers. But then, comes a surprise—and a smart one at that. From out of nowhere, he pulls out very warm, friendly gestures, like singing Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together.” That one moment resulted in more positive media than probably anything he’s done since that rousing speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention in Boston.
And, though you could argue the point, no one could possibly refute that a person who’s cool, very smart and surprisingly cute at times, is someone it’d be hard to say we wouldn’t respect as projecting a presidential image. With displays like that, it’s possible that voters will stop using words like stiff to describe Obama and could simply say, “ I like the guy.”
And, you know, in sitcom-land, that qualifies as a hit.
Jennie Blackton is a former talk-show host, sitcom writer/producer and movie studio vice president. She now works with down-ballot candidates on their communication. In the last 12 years, her work has helped several hundred winning candidates.