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Does Obama Need Close Contact?

David Corn thinks his campaign theme won't work as the race moves to bigger states and a focus on advertising:

With Obama, it's not about his career highlights, it's about him. To buy his case, a voter must believe in him, have faith in him, place hope in him--must have (or feel) a connection with him. And this is where the problem kicks in.

In the small and early states, a presidential candidates can forge a connection with voters. There are direct interactions: meet-and-greets, town hall gatherings, rallies. Word of mouth can spread. And the media in the early states devote extensive coverage; even couch potatoes come into regular contact with the contenders. In both Iowa and New Hampshire, Obama was able to create a bond with a great number of voters--many of whom had been able to interact closely with him or his campaign. They could hear him speak. They could look him in the eye. They could experience Obama--in real time, in real life.

After Nevada and South Carolina, that's going to change. The election will be shaped by Supersaturated Tuesday, February 5, when two dozen states, including some of the largest in the union, will hold primaries or caucuses. No candidate will be able to reach large number of voters in an up-close-and-personal manner. There will be big rallies in California and elsewhere. But the people who show up will be a minuscule fraction of the electorate, and these events may not receive extensive local media coverage--absent Oprah or a newsworthy mishap. (California television news is notorious for shortchanging political coverage. There are, after all, so many car chases to chase after.)

At this stage, the candidates will be reaching voters mainly through commercials. A television spot is a fine medium for a candidate to share his or her resume, to list his or her accomplishments. It is much tougher to convey the intangibles of hope, faith, and transcendence in a 30- or 60-second spot. The bottom line: advantage to Clinton.

I would add that despite all the coverage of the campaign to date, Hillary has been a very familiar figure to Democratic voters for about 15 years now, so she has to do a lot less work simply introducing herself. Which helps to explain her continued lead in national polls.

P.S. This is not an argument that Obama is toast. Far from it. But it's probably not getting any easier for him.

--Michael Crowley