SNL: An Election Factor?

Tina Fey & Sarah Palin  side-by-side on SNL
Image by TaraLivesOn via Flickr

By Nick DeMarco
Staff Writer

We all saw it, and we’ve seen it in elections past: a presidential candidate is portrayed on Saturday Night Live to a chorus of laughs all over America. After a few weeks of this, perhaps that candidate will appear on the show to “confront” their doppelganger. If we look at politicians at a glance, we know that some of them embrace the laughter and the jokes, while others just can’t seem to get what’s going on.

In retrospect, it would be wise, in my view, for them to show the ability to laugh at themselves and appeal to a wider audience. While I don’t look at SNL as the one defining factor in this election, it definitely made the candidates appear more real and down to earth. I will say, however, that in a shock to this registered Democratic voter, it was the Republican candidates that really utilized this show and its target audience. I feel this is so because of the general feel people have of John McCain. No knock against him, but a lot of voters, especially new young voters, look at him as some stick-in-the-mud old man with no charisma, as compared to the shining personality of Barack Obama. So he was on SNL poking fun at himself, telling us all that a president should be “very, very old.”

Palin followed suit, after Tina Fey’s brilliant portrayal of her. The rap preformed during the “Weekend Update” segment on SNL, along with Palin’s little dance to it, really turned a lot of heads and will be cemented in my mind. SNL definitely had me thinking about how I felt about her since she was first announced as the VP candidate choice of McCain.

I will say SNL had me thinking about my vote, and I can’t imagine what it did for younger voters who, and I’m not saying this is the case always, but may vote on which candidate is “cooler” versus what they stand for.

Barack Obama and Joe Biden did so well in debates and on news programs that they didn’t need to dig deeper and press the SNL button, as it were. Not sure it actually mattered, but I wondered how they felt about their portrayals on SNL, because one–Obama–was shown to be super serious, no one could really get a real solid impression of him out there, and Joe Biden in some points was shown to be just a loser from Scranton, PA.

I definitely believe SNL, along with talk shows, like The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, will continue to influence voters in future elections. I believe they are the core voters candidates are looking for, and while I understand that town hall meetings and news conferences are also important, if you’re looking for new voters, young voters, and those who truly do care about where America is going, SNL audiences, both in the studio, and watching at home, is where you’ll find them.

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