Fox News is reporting this afternoon that Mitt Romney will run 30-minute infomercials this week in unnamed battleground states. If this tactic sounds familiar, it’s because Barack Obama relied on the same tactic four years ago next week, airing this half-hour spot on NBC, CBS, Fox, Univision, msnbc, BET, and TV One.
It’s easy to forget, but at the time, Obama’s infomercial was criticized heavily on the right as outrageous. What stands out in my memory is Elisabeth Hasselbeck calling the 30-minute Obama ad “repulsive,” and Mark Halperin, just a week before the election, making this his lead story.
In reality, 30-minute, infomercial-style videos at the end of a presidential campaign were relatively common for many years. They became less routine when consumers started having a lot more channels to choose from, but as recently as 1992, Ross Perot broadcast similar infomercials.
Richard Nixon ran a half-hour ad in 1968; Barry Goldwater ran more than one 30-minute ad in 1964; and Adlai Stevenson ran 30-minute spots in both 1952 and 1956. As recently as the 2012 GOP primaries, Sheldon Adelson even financed a 30-minute ad in support of Newt Gingrich.
So, why did the right freak out about this four years ago? Because when it comes to Obama, it seems conservatives have very short memories, and will throw a fit whether it makes sense or not.
Incidentally, why didn’t the McCain/Palin campaign do this four years ago? McCain aides conceded that they wanted to, but they couldn’t afford it.
Update: Just moments after I published this, Romney advisers said the Fox report is “not accurate.” The campaign has inquired about 30-minute openings for broadcast airtime, but has not scheduled any half-hour infomercials.