Let Us Entertain You…

That, and other news, in today’s Political Panorama.

It was impossible to get through pre-Penn primary Monday without stumbling across some candidate, or candidate’s spouse, making light of the campaign, or, in the case of George W. Bush, on “Deal or No Deal,” his own approval ratings. Hillary Clinton called herself “HillRod” on WWE “Raw,” Barack Obama played along with Jon Stewart’s riff that he was out to “enslave the white race,” Cindy McCain joked that her intern who apparently plagiarized the Food Network was being sent to “Betty Crocker boot camp.” The New York Times’ notes this campaign trend toward comedy, writing “Elitism is to the 2008 campaign as communism was to 1950s politics: a career breaker. And pop TV is the antidote, a free platform to rub shoulders with viewers who only glancingly pay attention to the news.”

Stanley argues that “the higher the politicians’ stature or rank, the less they have to clown; the farther behind they are in the polls, the harder they have to sing for their supper.” She’s probably right, but with McCain relying on free media to achieve parity with the Democrats in fund-raising, this year will probably be a true test of the power of entertainment to propel a candidate into softer and more likable dimensions. The biggest risk for candidates seizing on comedy or late night TV is that they simply won’t be funny, and as any comic knows, there are times when you will just bomb out. In that sense this may be a bubble waiting to pop.

Debate Cancelled:
Plans for a North Carolina presidential debate, which would have aired on CBS and would have been moderated by Katie Couric, are officially off. Not too many people are upset about this — save for Couric — as she has been shut out of the coverage of presidential forums.

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