Fri Jul 11 03:44pm EDT
You can always count on a presidential campaign to throw you a few curveballs -- or, in this case, loose wheels -- and here's a beaut: seems the Obama campaign is looking to sponsor a NASCAR car in the Sprint Cup series. A report in Sports Illustrated indicates that the Obama camp would sponsor an entry from BAM Racing at Pocono on Aug. 3, and Ken Schrader would drive the #49 car emblazoned with the Obamanator's logo.
At first blush, it seems a rather .... curious way to spend advertising budgets. Democratic presidential candidates and NASCAR fans don't traditionally share huge swaths of fan bases. The last time a Democratic presidential type visited a NASCAR track was Bill Clinton in 1992, and he didn't exactly get the warmest of receptions at Darlington, as fans pelted him with screams of "draft dodger." (The best material for heckling Clinton was yet to come, you see.)
But Obama's no Clinton, and on closer inspection, a sponsorship gig makes a whole lot of sense. Obama's got absolutely nothing to lose by striding into the NASCAR camp and seeing if he can sway some minds his way. BAM Racing has run exactly one event since Martinsville, and certainly welcomes the sponsorship money. And NASCAR, reeling from the bad press surrounding a certain lawsuit, could use a little good PR on the diversity front. Since NASCAR probably won't be replacing the 43 Sprint Cup drivers with a cultural rainbow of United Nations ambassadors any time soon, welcoming in the first major African-American candidate for president will have to do.
Still, there are a few pitfalls we can see. First off, it's not a sure thing that Schrader will even qualify, and falling short of even making the race is one of those image-damaging missteps that campaigns try desperately to avoid. (Like that photo there. Why let him eat a hot dog? Did they learn nothing from Erin Andrews?) Second, much as we'd like to, we can't avoid this -- Obama is a black man standing before a fan base with segments that, uh, don't exactly have a sterling reputation for racial sensitivity. All it'll take is one idiot screaming the wrong thing at the wrong time to undo all the goodwill NASCAR is surely hoping this will engender.
Oh, and finally, you can count on a thousand hack political writers running the ol' "turning left" metaphor straight into the wall. And that'd be the most polite thing the inside-the-beltway types have to say.
As for the other big names in the presidential race? Well, Hillary Clinton is still trying to claim two of the #49's wheels as her own. John McCain, meanwhile, is throwing his sponsorship to that spry young fella Junior Johnson and his tractor, possibly hoping for a champion's provisional.
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