FROM THE EDITOR: Is charm sufficient for Barack Obama?

Barack Obama could be the identikit politician for the age of global communications.

Danny Rogers, Editor, <em>PRWeek</em>
Danny Rogers, Editor, PRWeek

He is on the international leg of the product Obama launch this week. Having already established himself in the US as the presidential candidate who looks most in tune with the modern age, he is now trying to replicate this on the world stage.

From Jerusalem to London, Obama is smiling and shaking hands with the major dignitaries. He is staging photo-calls that position him as the man in touch with the big global issues.

The trip is crucial because Team Obama recognises that its candidate's Achilles heel may be a lack of gravitas in relation to foreign affairs, particularly in comparison with Vietnam veteran John McCain.

As PRWeek exclusively reveals this week, the McCain camp is responding by desperately briefing influential bloggers in Europe to try to derail the Obama Transnational Express.

For many, Obama resembles John F Kennedy, the last US president whose youth and optimism were able to charm the world, presenting a more palatable image for the superpower.

Obama's communicators realise that the presidency is now his to lose.

Depressingly, the communications priority for Team Obama has become pre-emptive crisis management: above all he must not make gaffes.

As a result we will hear little in the way of world leadership statements or policy pledges from his lips. But maybe it was always thus.

As JFK stood for the presidency in 1960, one of his greatest achievements was to look the part. In a famous television debate with Republican candidate Richard Nixon, JFK wore make-up and looked more relaxed, winning over the audience.

On the other hand, JFK was at least controversial enough in his policies to express strong support for the civil rights movement.

Such bold stances helped cement JFK's place in history rather than simply as a product of his particular media age.


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