Thursday, September 04, 2008

Set Changes for McCain's Speech Tonight

It has been recently announced that there will be set modifications before John McCain gives his speech tonight. There have been idle speculations that this is being done to prevent any comparisons to the Greek-temple themed Obama set that the Republicans mocked during several of last night's speeches. I don't think this is the case.

From the press release, note the following:
The podium used for the first three nights of the convention was modified to enable John McCain to deliver his acceptance speech from the center of the Xcel Energy Center. The new podium is a reflection of the town-hall style that has been a hallmark of McCain's campaign. In the new forum, he will be surrounded by the delegates that nominated him the night before.

The new podium was constructed by removing the front corner sections of the existing platform and extending its midsection by 30 feet. The extension will be eight feet wide. Near the conclusion of tonight's program, Sen. McCain will address the convention from a lectern positioned near the end of this newly-constructed extension. To accommodate the modified platform, delegates from the state of Ohio will be re-seated on either side.

"The extended podium will serve as a fitting complement to John McCain's preference for direct interaction with his fellow citizens," said Maria Cino, president and CEO of the 2008 Republican National Convention.
This is not the first time I've heard of such a set change. I've searched for a record of the following story but to no avail. But I've been a long time fan of Jay Leno and I know the story well.

When the Leno-Letterman wars started, Letterman initially clobbered Leno in the ratings. Letterman was seen as energetic and innovative, often running through hallways and down streets and into the audience and to where ever the funny joke was to be found. Leno, in contrast, seemed oddly stilted and didn't connect with his audience. Then they made a set change. If you watch, when Leno comes out to do his monologue, a mini stage slides forward from the main stage. It puts Leno up close and personal with the front rows of the crowd. According to interviews, this was the environment Leno was use to--intimate nigh clubs where the audience was "right there". This change is attributed as the reason Leno became dynamic once again and the reason his ratings shot to the top and stayed there.

While the above text is from a press release and of course should be taken with a grain of salt, it is true that McCain seems to thrive in the town-hall format. So much so that the Obama camp has refused, to this point, to debate McCain in town-hall style meetings.

If the set change can make McCain more comfortable and a better speaker--an area that is clearly an Obama strength--then it could be view historically as a very savvy decision. I can also imagine the far right having a field day with the fact that Obama sought out a huge stadium and grandiose platform to feel comfortable while McCain looked for a more intimate setting.

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