Today saw two dropped election-season bombs — one attacking each side — that just might turn this race upside down! To benefit former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, Donald Trump made President Obama an offer he (will surely) refuse, vowing to donate $5 million to charity if the president reveals his undoubtedly damning college records! And on Obama’s side, the New York Times published a story suggesting that noted Democratic partisan Harvey Weinstein had real footage of the president inserted into Seal Team Six, a Weinstein-produced movie that dramatizes the kill-Osama raid and that the National Geographic Channel plans to air just two days before the election. This will remind people of the president’s commanding role in killing America’s main enemy right before they have to vote! Your move, Trump!
Some inside the conservative bubble had been complaining about the film’s preelection premiere date ever since it was announced earlier this month. But this recent news that the president actually appears in it has further incensed the right. NatGeo president Howard T. Owens denied political motivations for the timing in the Times article, as did Seal Team Six director John Stockwell (just as he did last week in the Huffington Post even before it came out that Obama was in the movie). But could this really just be an innocent scheduling coincidence? In this tense election, with all the voter fraud, super-PACs, and lies, lies, lies, it’s hard to underestimate just what nefarious lengths someone would go to in order for his or her side to win. Sure, NatGeo is owned by Rupert Murdoch, but still! And sure, the average prime-time audience of NatGeo during the third quarter of this year was 493,000 viewers, which is only on par with the Travel Channel or Oxygen; even fewer than niche networks such as Hallmark Channel, Lifetime Movie Network, and Spike; and about as politically influential as a Guthy-Renker infomercial. But still!
Yes, NatGeo’s audience is small, but in these closing days of campaign 2012, both Obama and Romney’s teams are targeting the smallest blocs of voters with pinpoint precision — Wal-Mart moms, Clint Eastwood superfans, Ohio’s 9th Congressional District — so small demographics are the name of the game. And NatGeo’s audience is full of voters each candidate would kill for.
For example, the channel does particularly well with a group of voters President Obama really needs help with: dudes. Per the Cabletelevision Advertising Bureau, a whopping 59 percent of NatGeo’s audience is male. A big Hollywood movie juxtaposing Navy SEAL heroics with a firm-and-steady Barry O. could be just the ticket to get a couple-thousand more Ohio guys to cast a D ballot! Score!
The CAB data also shows NatGeo “over indexes” (TV talk for “does really well”) with folks who consider themselves “car lovers.” Well, they build a lot of cars in swing states like Ohio and Michigan, and Team Obama could do worse than to purchase some ad time during Seal Team Six reminding these auto lovers that Mr. Romney wrote that infamous op-ed entitled “Let Detroit Go Bankrupt.”
However, there are hidden dangers with this plan. After all, two of the channel’s biggest shows are Doomsday Preppers and Alaska State Troopers. Rapture-anticipating residents of Sarah Palin’s home state could be put off by the idea of a strong and forceful President Obama, so much so that they finish watching Seal Team Six more determined than ever to head to the polls Tuesday and vote him out of office. It could happen!
People, democracy hangs in the balance.
Although, here’s one more thought. Maybe instead of lobbying for votes, master publicity ninja Weinstein and the savvy execs at NatGeo figured an Election Day–adjacent airing of Seal Team Six (a movie that was originally supposed to get a big-screen release but slipped away to cable in the shadow of Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty) and then a surprise casting of President Obama might be a great way to whip up a “non-troversy,” goading both the right-wing blogosphere and the liberal media into writing about a project otherwise destined to get about as much attention as an episode of Emily Owens M.D.? Nah, it can’t be that simple. It’s all about the election … and car-loving men ages 25 to 54 who also dig American Gypsies.