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May 15th, 2008
12:48 PM ET

Obama: master of stagecraft

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2008/images/05/15/art.splitreaganobama.jpg]

Barclay Palmer
360° Senior Producer

Barack Obama had already seemed to take a page from his forebear on the other end of the political spectrum - yes, Ronald Reagan - by running on a platform of optimism, which he has branded as "change."

And last night, the Illinois Democrat evoked the widely admired stagecraft of the Gipper, who could turn a speech into a celebratory rally timed perfectly for evening newscasts, complete with hundreds of balloons falling from above, and cheering, nearly ecstatic crowds.

Fast forward to Obama last night: he comes bounding in before a roaring crowd. With his slow and pausing manner of speech, which somehow builds rather than depletes the drama, he promises "something special," then introduces John Edwards, who comes bounding in to even greater cheers. What is this, a prize fight?

Edwards, sounding like the party's patriarch and unifier, graciously praises Hillary Clinton, and endorses Obama in what is desisgned to feel like the reassuring and inevitable coronation of a popular crown prince in a troubled kingdom.

Why has it taken a generation for another politician to repeat Reagan's effective form of stagecraft? And is Michael Deaver, credited as Reagan's stagecraft sorcerer, secretly working for Obama from the heavens above? (A fun thought, isn't it?) Or does Obama himself, as many of his supporters believe, have the star power to pull off this kind of event and... just as Reagan did... an election victory?

What do you think? We'd like to know.

Meantime, I'm checking in on Deaver.


Filed under: Barack Obama • Barclay Palmer • Hillary Clinton • Raw Politics
soundoff (98 Responses)
  1. nina

    We need politician, caring leader, experienced leader who will take us out of the misery, chaos we are in. Bin Laden is going to publish his new tape. This is what is very scary, we need someone who will lessen the bad in world and this country. Acting, speeches will not do it. The mess in world and here is reality. Harsh, cruel reality.

    May 15, 2008 at 11:23 pm |
  2. ML

    politcian/actor. I have hard time to trust actor – ( I do not mean professional acting, I mean people who manipulate others by acting...)
    Obama is way too much of this glory, theatrical appearances. It feels so fake, so much lied to us. It does not feel real, honest.
    Reagan was different, he was actor switched to politics. Obama is not professional actor, he is way too young, inexperienced in everything but this "acting". He is good in his acted speeches, and people -the "educated" buy it.
    It seems that politics turned to shows, to big screaming reality shows. Not politics. Just show.

    May 15, 2008 at 11:18 pm |
  3. Chanel

    When you take out your personal views of where he stands and just look at how he "performs." You have to admit, he is very inticing. His charm, combined with his amazing delivery of his powerful and historical speeches makes for an awe-struck audience and a star-like quality.

    May 15, 2008 at 11:15 pm |
  4. a davy

    Shawn, I guess you've been happy with 8 years of Bush reading speeches since you want to hear 4 more years of Obama giving speeches. He's hasn't been able to seal the deal.

    May 15, 2008 at 11:08 pm |
  5. Cynthia

    I'm sure the writer of this piece has seen Senator Obama come out several times to roaring crowds and I see this one as no different. I think that the biggest problem is that people are afraid of change – what we have had for the last eight years has not worked. So, let's be open to it.

    May 15, 2008 at 11:06 pm |
  6. a davy

    I'm tired of "sweating guys" calling us working girls "sweetie". And then they say their sorry and we should smile and say you're forgiven...until next time?

    May 15, 2008 at 10:56 pm |
  7. M. Kelly

    Isn't anyone else laughing at Edwards endorsing less than a week after he insists in an NPR interview that endorsements are meaningless . . . and where is Edwards wife – oh yeah, supporting Clinton . . .

    Obama truly doesn't know how many states there are – hmmmm I'm not even mildly surprised – his campaign machine rivals the Rove machine . . . between the stage presence of Reagan, the Bush/Rovelike campaign machine and the Carteresque liberalism I'm not sure what people are backing?

    May 15, 2008 at 10:39 pm |
  8. vic nashville,Tn

    Obama wearing a lapel pen now!!!!!!!! Honoring a country, it has to come from heart the way we respect our parents. Some show it out some don’t but if you listen to some one and honoring the country called fake
    John Edwards endorsed Obama because to help him to get white votes, We don’t need third person help to vote for a candidate

    May 15, 2008 at 10:28 pm |
  9. Annie Kate

    All talk and no substance. Its sad so many people are falling for the show.

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    May 15, 2008 at 10:27 pm |
  10. ben

    i have the same comment for this article that senator biden said

    May 15, 2008 at 10:26 pm |
  11. Janet from Fl

    I have listened to Bush's speech over and over again today on all channels. Not once did he say Obama but yet Obama and his crew jumped on it. Is there some truth in what Bush said ????
    I am a Fla dem and a Hillary supporter and this is just another reason I am. The man wants to be a victim everyone is beating up on him. To bad. What is he going to say when he loses in Nov. It was Hillary.
    I urge all Fla voters who are Hillary supporters to vote for anyone but Obama or write her in. I know I will (No I am not changing my mind in Nov.) This man is not for us or our country.
    Go Hillary all the way and don't stop fighting for us.

    May 15, 2008 at 9:58 pm |
  12. Monica

    It is unfortunate that in this time in our country when we "middle class
    americans " are on the verge of poverty because of the war that just doesn't make sense. Stop the Hate and anger. It hasn't help our families to focus on woking harder to be american citizens. Every man or women is entiled to the American dream. Leave Senator Obama out of your frustration. It isn"t healthy for our futre. Senator Edwards is a good man because he is trying to enform the "middle class " Take note.

    May 15, 2008 at 9:44 pm |
  13. Shawn

    Listen to truth, listen to hope, listen to change

    It has been said in interviews by west va residents that they "Don't like voting for that other race because we have had so many problems with "them folks"." Also "I don't like that muslim thing, I'm tired of Hussein Hussein Hussein" The fact that race and religion is still a focus of hate in this country make me sick. When Hillary said that she had more votes within the uneducated middle class whites I think she was talking about the ignorant, racist people of West Va.

    I think in the end, how can anyone sit here and poke and prod Barak Obama? Yes, in my eyes this has been the most hopeful of all presidential races in a very long time. I think the problem with most people and sorry to say, some of the media, is that it's become like American idol, we all want to vote for our favorite, but when you imply race or gender and forget the message that you hear. Things get blown way up to the point of ridiculous. Such as Barak calling a woman "sweety" I do it and so do most men. We're men, at least we're willing to show sensitivity and respect towards the opposite sex. We don't always do it right but can we be blamed for a quick stitch effort when we've got a hundred people talking in our ear? I've never been so deeply grasped by a presidential race so much in all my life. I think Obama is the best for the job. He may seem a bit dry, but how can you show anything in front of the camera that won't be dissected and made a bigger issue than it should be?

    May 15, 2008 at 9:29 pm |
  14. Christine

    Jacquelyn – yes I want a smart president, but I also want one with a back bone and a brass set of b___s! Neither does Obama have. If you and your family really think Americans are as dumb as rocks there is a soulition – you all can move, and the IQ of America will go up considerably.

    I also don't want a rock star for president – I didn't much like Reagan either.

    May 15, 2008 at 9:21 pm |
  15. Darcy

    I watched it and loved it!!!

    Obama 2008

    May 15, 2008 at 9:12 pm |
  16. jacquelyn george

    Wow – can't believe I have ever seen so many sour grapes in one blog before! Just can't stand it that a dark white man can actually run and win the highest office... and that he actually found a way to go to the finest college in the nation... oh, excuse me, the "elitest" college in the nation. Sidebar – just which one of you would not allow their child or grandchild to go to Harvard because, OMG, it is too elitest? I want elitest... I want brillant, I want well read and educated, I want a president so damn smart you can't even believe it! I want a president who actually studied constitutional law and believes in our constitution and doesn't think that the law doesn't apply to him.

    We have a little saying in our family... we call it the 80-20 rule:
    80% of americans are dumb as rocks and only 20% have any intellect worth mentioning. I would say about 80% of these comments are from those of you in that dumb as rocks category – think about it.

    May 15, 2008 at 9:03 pm |
  17. Greg Erie PA

    I don't remember Ronald Reagan calling reporters sweetie. I don't call that stagecrafting I call that a person who thinks women are beneath him.

    We just keep learning more about Sen. Obama every day.

    May 15, 2008 at 8:45 pm |
  18. spencer

    Guess what Obama, you looked really elitist in that picture.......

    May 15, 2008 at 8:42 pm |
  19. xtina, chicago

    Obama is only appealing to voters if he's a "victim" so he plays the "he's beating up on me, mom !" card. Obama and his wife also try to convince you and I that we are victims of something or other .What troubles me way more about Obama is that he is weak of character and he lacks governing experience.

    May 15, 2008 at 8:37 pm |
  20. winnie

    I want to comment on what I believe is insecurity on the side of Obama. I have never seen so much sensitivity on the part of a candidate, he is always suggesting people are after him, even when it is on his part to explain his position- in case of pastor wright. Now Bush gives his usual speech in Isreal, Obama can't wait to fight back. No one can mention color, they are racist- I am black by the way, and I support neither candidate. When 92 percent black vote Obama, no one calls them recist, but 41 percent vote clinton, they are. I would say grow up or how much will you take when you are president.

    May 15, 2008 at 8:08 pm |
  21. Nicole from Michigan

    At the end of the day Obama is just another politician. He says what we want to hear when he thinks we need to hear it. That was the only thing Reverend Wright got right. Obama changes faces according to the crowd he is speaking to. He wants to appeal to the rich upper class then he shows his elitist face. When he wants to appeal to African Americans he suddenly embraces that part of his heritage. Barack Obama needs to decide who he wants to be and stick with it otherwise we are going to have a 2004 repeat with John McCain at the helm making a good reason for Canadian citizenship.

    Whatever the outcome it doesn't look like much will change. Obama recently said he has visited 57 states this primary season!! I smell a "Bush-ism". Just more of the same.

    May 15, 2008 at 8:00 pm |
  22. spencer

    Hillary all the way. Not in to big stage performances............

    May 15, 2008 at 7:50 pm |
  23. Cathy

    Yes, pretty crafty indeed!! This event stole the spotlight from Hillary after her WV win. You have to admit the Obama team has run a pretty great campaign. Had the Hillary team run the same kind of campaign, right down to the finances, my guess is that she would have been the front-runner today. I just hope the party can come together in the fall.....the division is becoming clearer and clearer, hence the Edwards endorsement.

    May 15, 2008 at 7:40 pm |
  24. Jan from Wood Dale IL

    Ronald Reagan was an actor first, a convincing actor. Reagan was the Governor of CA, a convincing Governor. Obama is neither a good actor or statesman, but he has started using props. After a "thumping" in WV, he flew Edwards into Grand Rapids to announce his endorsement. Notice Obama even wore the "flag pin" on his lapel last night. Nice prop to what he once called "a token of his patriotism".

    I might not have an ivy league school degree, but I know arrogance when I see it. And Obama has me convinced that he is quite arrogant.

    May 15, 2008 at 7:14 pm |
  25. Jane, Detroit, MI

    Obama stole away Hillary's moment of celebration over her token West Virginia win. I would call that stagecraft mastery. And her win was insignificant. Obama has seen a flood of super delegates in the last few weeks, and now has John Edwards, and so far 9 or 10 of his delegates. It's time for Hillary supporters to let go, and get behind Obama with their support if they truly want to see a change in this country. I still don't know who looks better as running mate, Edwards or Kerry. Many thanks to John for his endorsement yesterday.

    May 15, 2008 at 5:32 pm |
  26. Cecil

    I think that all the people that were going to vote Hillary ,will switch over and vote for John -MC Cain .The democrats will lose because they chose Obama to run instead of Hillary .

    May 15, 2008 at 5:30 pm |
  27. Marsha Memphis

    For Obama's claim that he is a different kind of politician, I beg to differ. It seems the dirty little trick that he and Edwards pulled off yesterday is the same kind of political crap that has been happening for years. I thought he was above it!!! He effectively "rained on Hillary's parade" and took her out of the limelight. Well, he won't get my vote. In fact, the whole Edwards/Obama gang up on Hillary has convinced me that I need to change my political affilation to Independent. Shame on you Obama. And Edwards, I've lost all respect for you.

    May 15, 2008 at 5:26 pm |
  28. Phin

    Barb...... He did blow off Richardson,.......I hope Mr, Edwards falls down and breaks his hair.

    May 15, 2008 at 5:26 pm |
  29. Phil - Chesterton, IN

    I don't understand Hillary's supporters who insist on suggesting a mutually exclusive relationship between popularity and substance. The two can go together.

    If Hillary and/or her supporters are suggesting that Bill Clinton did not have a similar wave of popularity to ride into the White House, then they are showing not only a delusion about her chances to win the nomination but also a denial of one of his campaign's critical elements: rock star quality.

    Tell me if any of these things sound familiar: "astro-turf in the back seat" (lewd implications), marijuana references made by him, saxophone stardom on the Arsenio Hall show....Is it coming back to you now?

    Talking out of both sides of your collective mouth on the element of stardom in a campaign strategy is futile and has the same effect of throwing a political boomerang. It can all come back and say the same about former president Bill Clinton.

    And one of the assertions made by your campaign in this process has been that Obama is not the one who will unify, you are. Really...Is that why I don't recall having heard a Clinton concession speech of any kind throughout this primary season? Even her speech after Iowa sounded more like a, "this is ridiculous and I should be president already, " speech rather than a concession of that contest.

    Obama on the other hand gave a concession speech when Indiana was still considered "too close to call." I'm seeing both a difference and a pattern here.

    Face it Hillary, there's a reason they call it the 'popular' vote, and even if you haven't mastered winning it you should be able to credit someone who has instead of painting it as a substitute for substance, when you know that is a false argument.

    SHAME ON YOU HILLARY CLINTON!

    May 15, 2008 at 5:04 pm |
  30. Steve in DC

    Mr. Edwards, you have showed great wisdom and magnanimity!

    May 15, 2008 at 5:03 pm |
  31. Tammy From New York

    Obama is the stongest candidate against Mccain and Clinton supportes needs to stop acting like their candidate a Sore Loser. If your a Democrat than stop acting like republicans. Obama 08

    May 15, 2008 at 4:56 pm |
  32. bernice

    Its a beautiful thing don't you think to have a couple of young democratic men stand together. Sure beats the older version on the Repugs side. Quite a contrast (McCain Lieberman)

    May 15, 2008 at 4:32 pm |
  33. TONI

    Its nice to dream about change, but reality is NO PRESIDENT is going to walk into the white house and change things. So you can dream all you like, thats the reality! I dont want someone with less experience than Bush on a trial run, apprenticeship either. I think someone in the white house learning on the job would be worse than what we have. I feel that Obama has made alot of promises he isnt going to be able to keep! Hilary has been much more conservative in her speeches. I think John Edwards was promised something and so was Bill Richardson, I dont think thats a "new way" of doing business. Thats the old way. He is also going to pick a running mate based on what state that candiate can bring him in that he cannot. Dosent sound like change to me! BUYERS REMORSE is a more likely scenerio unfortunalty it will be too late. I hope H.C will consider staying in the race till the end, when that starts to happen, she can surely run as an independent, and more than likely win! That will give people a REAL CHOICE of 5 candidates, and NO ONE CAN SAY, SHE DIDNT WIN IT SQUARE AND FAIR....I will vote for her whether shes on the ballot or not.

    May 15, 2008 at 4:25 pm |
  34. D McCardell

    Mr. Edwards, you have showed how badly you want to be vice president

    May 15, 2008 at 4:18 pm |
  35. Mike - Rancho SM, CA

    .
    Excuse me, Senator Obama – – – I knew Ronald Reagon ( what he stood for ), Ronald Reagon was a friend of mine ( I agreed with his policies).

    You, Senator Obama, are no Ronald Reagon.

    Oh, we know that you stand for change. But exactly what kind of change is it that you intend to implement ? The American voting public deserves more than just the word, "hope". They deserve real and absolute policy choices.

    No one really knows what you stand for, Barak. It may be that you are quite fearful to unvail your real stances pre-election . . . or that you, yourself, are simply vacant of having any policies that are of merit or substance.

    Or perhaps it is that you pompously think that you will be the marvalous manager of "knowledgable advisors" who have all the detailed plans. Pray tell, dear Senator, when is it that you intend to let the voting public in on just exactly who the names of these great seers are ?

    Probably sometime "after" the election would be my guess.

    May 15, 2008 at 4:12 pm |
  36. Helen, Denver, CO

    Pulling a Ronald Reagan was a dastardly ploy. Change is about UNITY and bringing all the people together. By showing, an all male presence is an insult to women voters. The senator has electability issues and today was proof, the Jewish State and voice questioning Senator Obama.

    May 15, 2008 at 4:09 pm |
  37. Vee (STT)

    You people are so biased

    You Guys need to go on Obama's web site and see his plans for America. Just like you can go on the blogs and write all sort of stuff
    why not go and ck it out you learn plenty. On the campain trail he usually outline a few stuff, but he's still all fluff in you guys book. You know what like he says you don' tplan to vote for him anyway. For a man that doesn't know about the economy he sure has many plans now. McCain is just pandering to you people who still don't trust the black man. Plain and simply. How many times he said what he'll do at the end of his first term if elected. McCain did not give any specifics how he's going to do these things, but still some of you still say's you're impress by his rethoric and Obama is an empty suit.

    May 15, 2008 at 3:38 pm |
  38. Rachel, LV, NV

    Obama supporters are the only ones in this country who realize that this man means actual change for our country. His personality and MODERN views of our country match many of young adults like me who are "waiting on the world to change." Obama is our one opportunity and one chance for this, there is no one like him and there never will be.

    May 15, 2008 at 3:32 pm |
  39. Debbie, NJ

    Thanks Hillary for preping Obama for the Rep game. She thought she was showing his weakness to hurt him, she played the Rep game by showing his weaknesses so thatif she didn't knock him down the Rep would. But it backfired on her,

    May 15, 2008 at 2:43 pm |
  40. Debbie, NJ

    And for you other Obama haters. Votes count. Not polls. And while Hillary is out there yapping her mouth and nodding her head, trying every trick in the Rep. book Obama was getting votes,

    May 15, 2008 at 2:41 pm |
  41. Cynthia- Florida

    I would agree that there is very little substance to him he does have a lot of show. He would do well as a motivational speaker but not as our President. Unlike Hillary, he doe not have enough experience. We do NOT need a President in training. We need to remember that the U.S. is the most powerful and prestigous country in the world. However we have somewhat lost that after 8 years of Bush. We need Hillary to help us restore our dignity and respect from other nations. There is no doubt in my mind that she could do it.
    Go Hillary-Keep fighting for us!!

    May 15, 2008 at 2:24 pm |
  42. Todd

    Which of the "57" States is Barrack Obama in today?

    May 15, 2008 at 2:22 pm |
  43. Brent

    For those who claim that Obama is all flash and no substance. Do your homework. Go to his website and read his plans. Do that with all three of the candidates - click on the menu item "issues" and read (this is going to take some time).
    Next, you'll need to determine the veracity of each of the candidates (veracity - got that from the movie "My Cousin Vinny"). And then once you feel you're fully informed, completely disregard all that information and determine who to vote for based on race, gender, war record or a YouTube soundbite.

    May 15, 2008 at 2:19 pm |
  44. Bill

    Obama the master of stage craft?

    CNN posting that take of Obama is a farce. After what I saw on the CNN Anderson 360 show last night. Now what I saw last night, that was well orchestrated, psychologically tested stage craft. It was also really entertaining, I have to admit.

    Several times I thought I was watching the Daily Show instead of the 360 Show.

    May 15, 2008 at 2:17 pm |
  45. Kathie, Ontario, Canada

    Let's see Obama totally ignores the voters in West Virginia and
    makes them feel irrelevant to him. But, will win them back in
    the general election because Edwards endorses him .
    Edwards and Obama had this planned all along to steal
    Hillary's thunder of the enormous win she had in that State.
    He thinks he can go back and sweet talk and double talk the
    blue collar workers cause of Edwards , after he ignored them.
    Can the man get anymore insulting and arrogant.
    Oh I forgot he is ivy league educated and Hillary's supporters
    are undereducated of course he feels he can dupe them.
    NOT gonna happen Obama .

    May 15, 2008 at 2:04 pm |
  46. Barb

    Does this mean Obama blew off Richardson, he must have thought he had a chance at the vp job.
    John Edwards will last until Obama needs someone else who can help his campaign.John Edwards should be ashamed of himself ,he is helping Obama con the white collar workers.
    I guess when you can't get the presidencey twice, you sell out and hope too get the vp.

    May 15, 2008 at 1:32 pm |
  47. Bill - Tennessee

    Compare Sen. Obama stage presence to Sen. McCain and there is no match, Sen Obama wins hands down. But what about what is being said. Compare Sen McCain's speech this morning to what Sen. Obama said last night, Sen McCain wins hands down. I am a Democrat supporting Sen Clinton, but Sen McCain gave an outline of what he hopes to have achieved by the end of his presidency and I was very impressed. What he wants to do is real change in the way government works, something that is definitely needed. Sen Obama is going to have to do more than be a "rock star" to get my vote, he is going to have get specific, just like Sen McCain did this morning.

    We don't need a star in the White House, we need someone with their feet planted firmly on the ground with a plan to get the govenment doing what it is supposed to do.

    May 15, 2008 at 1:27 pm |
  48. Cindy

    Yeah Obama did what he set out to do last night....Make everyone forget that he lost BIG TIME to Hillary. He may give great speeches but he still has a huge problem coming across and identifying with the working class. His little surprise with Edwards really will do nothing to help him with the working class people though. None of them really voted for Edwards anyway they were mostly for Hillary. Obama still has a long, hard row to hoe.

    May 15, 2008 at 1:05 pm |
  49. Paris

    That is precisely the problem with Obama.
    He is more of an stagecraft than substance, I wish he would learn more from Ronald Reagan.
    Who hasn’t run on change?
    Oh and optimism? To me he sounds like a broken record counting everything bad about America.
    This not only reflected in his speeches, his wife and pastor echo it as well.

    Obama you never read any of your church’s journals or publications?
    How could you not if you were such a committed Christian to your church? How could you not see what Wright wrote?
    How could you not see the cover story publication and after publication?

    Obama stop lying to us.

    May 15, 2008 at 1:03 pm |
  50. Mike in NYC

    Yawn. I'm not impressed in the least.

    Having hordes of fanatical, unintelligent, yet still "educated," followers works wonders for one's image, I suppose.

    May 15, 2008 at 1:02 pm |
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