On Oct. 29, six days before the election, Barack Obama will appear on at least CBS and NBC to make a final 30-minute case for his candidacy. Obama purchased the large block of national airtime for what is essentially a more personalized, and lengthy, campaign commercial.
Thanks to cheap TV time and lack of campaign finance laws, direct appeals were commonplace during the 1960s and '70s. As the 1952 Republican VP nominee, Richard Nixon, one of the first to appeal to voters directly via TV, gave the infamous "Checkers Speech" denying that he accepted illegal donations. His effort to reach out to voters was essentially successful, as the Eisenhower/Nixon ticket went on to victory. Ross Perot was the last to air low-rated campaign infomercials in 1992.
Networks will offer McCain a similar time at a similar price, but Obama's fund-raising advantage may mean only he has the resources. Obama often makes his message demographic specific, for example buying ads on MTV. By appealing to the entire nation, Obama can convey a unified message. I'm still left wondering what details he has up his sleeves for the mega-ad. An economy-heavy speech would have an historical hook, considering Oct. 29 marks the anniversary of Black Tuesday, the start of the Great Depression.