Last week, Jimmy Fallon took his “Late Night” show for NBC on the road to the University of North Carolina. Fallon began talking about a subject close to the college-aged target demographics heart (and pocket), student loans. The popular segment, “Slow Jam The News,” was introduced, and a surprise guest was introduced.
President Obama’s appearance on “Late Night with Jimmy Fallon” last week can be taken and evaluated from many different directions, depending on your political affiliation. Party lines put aside and looking at this from a PR stand-point, I think this move was an incredibly smart one, and one that may be remembered for some time* (*-We’ll get to that later).
Many political pundits are comparing President Obama’s appearance to (then) Gov. Bill Clinton’s appearance on The Arsenio Hall Show in June of 1992, and while I am not a political pundit, I agree. At the time, Clinton was in the midst of his first Presidential campaign, and the appearance helped him reach out to a younger and more diverse audience. He was able to discuss the issues and his plans in front of a mass audience, and many claim that this appearance helped Clinton win the election.
Obama is a little different. He is not an unknown to young or minority voters. He is the sitting President, not a candidate. And Jimmy Fallon’s show is not nearly as popular as Arseno’s was (that may be personal bias…)
But the appearance is still extremely important. Obama is looking to secure the 18-25 voter demographic. One of the biggest problems that the specific demographic has is repaying student loans. And while I personally do not watch Late Night, many college-aged people do. Obama stepping on stage with Fallon, his house band The Roots, and delivering his campaign message in a hip, fun, funny way make the voters identify more.
OK. But now you’re probably still wondering what that asterisk was for up there. This appearance (and others President Obama may make) was important. But it will not be remembered if:
A) He loses his re-election bid.
B) He wins, but fails to act on the specific message of student loan premiums.
The election season is long, and there are sure to be many more television appearances for both Obama and Mitt Romney, and all of these appearances will be targeted towards certain voter demographics. However, both Obama and Romney need to do their best to win the “young” vote, and in that battle, Obama as made his first move.