MEDIA
01/18/2009 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Obama Media Strategy Insight: Ignore The Page , Politico

So, the paragraph that everyone's dining out on from this weekend's coming New York Times Magazine profile of President-elect Obama's communications guru Robert Gibbs appears to be this one:

The paradox of this scene was that the Obama campaign's communications strategy was predicated in part on an aggressive indifference to this insider set. Staff members were encouraged to ignore new Web sites like The Page, written by Time's Mark Halperin, and Politico, both of which had gained instant cachet among the Washington smarty-pants set. "If Politico and Halperin say we're winning, we're losing," Obama's campaign manager, David Plouffe, would repeat mantralike around headquarters.

Now, look. I think you're really kidding yourself if you think the Obama campaign straight-up ignored the Politico. I'm quite sure they were dutifully fed the Obama camp's talking points on a regular basis. Nevertheless, the statement "If Politico and Halperin say we're winning, we're losing" is not entirely hyperbolic.

Some examples? Roger Simon's repeated, dubious defenses of Sarah Palin's debate performances come to mind as precisely the sort of content that caused the Obama campaign precisely zero concern. Simon penned a addlepated valentine to Palin's debating that basically boiled down to: "By not soiling herself onstage, Palin was the big winner." He followed it up with similarly goopy, out-of-the-loop defenses on TV, such as this exchange with Chris Matthews:

MATTHEWS: Here she is, Governor Palin, on the office of the vice presidency. Here she is.

(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)

GOV. SARAH PALIN (R-AK), VICE PRESIDENTIAL NOMINEE: Of course, we know what a vice president does. And that's not only to preside over the Senate and will take that position very seriously also. I'm thankful the Constitution would allow a bit more authority given to the vice president if that vice president so chose to exert it in working with the Senate and making sure that we are supportive of the president's policies and making sure too that our president understands what our strengths are.

(END VIDEO CLIP)

MATTHEWS: OK. I want to know what you both think about what 00 I mean, I thought for a moment I was hearing "precious bodily fluids" there.

(LAUGHTER)

MATTHEWS: All of a sudden, a candidate -- a candidate for president -- vice president of the United States is talking about a new expansive role for the vice presidency in presiding over the Senate.

Roger, you have been defending her performance tonight. Explain what she is up to here.

SIMON: You know, that was like the 86th minute of the debate or something.

MATTHEWS: Yes. I was paying attention.

SIMON: Yes. Was America?

Ha ha. As it turns out, America was paying attention, silly goose! The debate had been billed as THE geek show of the political season, after all! Polls conducted by CBS and CNN after the debate declared Biden the decisive, double-digit winner, and, at her next opportunity, comedienne Tina Fey leveled Palin's performance by putting all the things that Simon missed in his analysis (especially Palin's strategy of answering questions with answers that did not in any way relate to the question) on high-contrast display. Americans paid attention to that, too! What Americans managed to reject in large numbers was the notion that Palin's debate performance elevated her, or her ticket, in any meaningful way.

Of course, that the Obama camp ignored "The Page" makes even more sense, because The Page is just an incoherently written website geared towards tricking people into making as many ad-revenue-generating clicks as possible. But, specific to the matter of "if they say we're winning, we're losing," I recall noting a well-documented example of this phenomenon. In a week where John McCain said multiple conflicting things on the state of the economy, got slagged by a slew of prominent conservatives for selecting Palin, complained about the rough treatment he received on The View, had one surrogate banished for suggesting that he lacked the acumen to run a corporation, had another surrogate make a perplexing statement about how the candidate had invented the Blackberry, and topped it all off by picking a bizarre fight with Spain, Mark Halperin declared in the biggest and most colorful fonts he could muster that "McCain Wins The Week."

So, yeah. I'd totally put The Page on fade, too. And now that the election is over, I'd wager that most people are following this aspect of Robert Gibbs' media strategy.