Like most Democrats, I was disappointed with President Obama's performance during the debate last week. But I felt a lot better about his chances in November after I saw the two-minute trailer for the new Steven Spielberg movie Lincoln. It aired right after the debate.
The trailer is powerful, and better than the first one released in early September. This second attempt, entitled Unite, focused on the tough decisions leaders have to make to bring about difficult but necessary change.
Spielberg has said that he's releasing the movie mid-November on purpose. He doesn't want to influence the election. But the Lincoln movie trailer will. Instead of giving us a two-hour plus historical drama to sip on, the trailer serves a pro-Obama shot straight up.
The trailer has a compelling, modern tone. Troops in the Middle East and the missing Twin Towers are just two images injected into Lincoln's wartime world. The larger message is difficult times demand a strong and moral leader that will stay the course.
A bunch of things came to mind as I watched the trailer.
- Entitled Unite, the trailer says "There are those who unite us." That was Obama's yet to be fulfilled promise to voters four years ago.
- Lincoln freed the slaves, which set in motion the election of the first black president.
- Lincoln was -- and is in the trailer -- a strong proponent of federal powers, which Obama shares and which contrasts sharply with Romney's refrain during the debate to "Let the states decide."
- Lincoln had a tough fight for reelection but ultimately swayed voters that during difficult times it's best not to "change horses in midstream." Obama is trying to accomplish the same feat.
You may think that most Jersey Shore-watching Americans know very little about Lincoln. They may not know he was born in Kentucky, but they know and admire Honest Abe. In a 2011 Gallup poll of the greatest presidents, Lincoln ranked ahead of modern presidents Bill Clinton and John F. Kennedy and was second only to Ronald Reagan. Obama ranked seventh, right behind FDR.
I also think your average debate-watching American knows more about the Civil War, and the issues that led to it, than any other American war except World War II. In short, Lincoln will resonate with viewers and voters.
The day after the presidential debate I was speaking to a group in Denver and showed them the trailer. I asked if it helped either candidate. Almost everyone agreed that it was pro-Obama -- although some gave Romney the nod as his party is (at least in name) the party of Lincoln.
Last night, Lincoln had its worldwide opening at the New York Film Festival. Tomorrow, Spielberg and the film's star, Daniel Day-Lewis, will participate in a live chat on the film.
The rest of us will have to wait until after the election to see the movie. But 37 million Americans watched the debate last week, after which the trailer aired. Who knows how many more times it will air during the three remaining debates.
Combined, the two Lincoln movie trailers have over 6 million views on YouTube and will get millions more before the election. That means a lot of voters will be drawing positive parallels between the two "uniters," Lincoln and Obama.
Come Election Day, Americans will recall their greatest Republican president and re-elect a Democrat.