David Gore is a UMD Professor that teaches Communications courses that frequently analyze political messages from a rhetorical standpoint. We asked Professor Gore to make sense of what both parties were saying as a whole with their ads. This is his analysis.
I was a bit surprised by how different they were - there is a generational difference, but also one of attitude. It's clear that Mr. Oberstar is the incumbent and the front-runner because his page is updated less frequently and has fewer visitors according to the weblog, and, quite frankly, seems to care less about the viewer. Mr. Cravaack seems to have a better intuitive sense of how to use the medium, but his larger strategy is negative.
What was strange is that loading Mr. Cravaack's page brought ten videos of Mr. Oberstar talking - pitched as top ten clips from the debate, and framed as quasi-attack ads. They are not the most flattering depictions, I'll grant that, but I question the wisdom of a strategy that puts your opponent at the center of your channel. It frames Mr. Cravaack's pitch a bit negatively, but I suppose it's understandable when the polls have Mr. Cravaack where they do.
As for Mr. Oberstar, his channel leads with some boring speeches in Congress and in a local coffee house. If you dig a little deeper there is some decent stuff - and the links to Mr. Oberstar's favorites videos indicate that he does know what makes a good video even if he doesn't lead with them.
In terms of content, I would add a kind of irony. Cravaack is running against Oberstar by arguing that he understands the private sector and that debt and the bailout are bad. One really wonders while listening to his rhetoric on this point, both in the debate and on his youtube channel, if he understands the relationship between government and the private sector. Neither of them exists in a bubble, as Cravaack's own career suggests: he attended and graduated from state funded colleges, has a military pension, and his children attend public schools - suggesting that the public sector does some things right! Ever since Eisenhower's Farewell Address I think the public has understood, for better and worse, that the private sector and the public sector are inextricably linked, but Cravaack seems to treat the public sector as if it's in a sacred bubble. It's one thing to criticize govt. spending -- and Oberstar has done a lot of spending in his day -- but it's another thing to understand it, as Oberstar seems to, or say what could be done instead, which Cravaack, to my knowledge, never does.
To find in-depth analysis of specific ads from Oberstar and Cravaack follow these links:
Chip Cravaack's ad, "All Due Respect"
Jim Oberstar's ad, "Coach"