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For Campaigns, Daytime Is Another Swing State

When presidential candidates and their wives wish to reach women—and they certainly do this campaign season—they make sure to work daytime TV into their schedules between swing-state visits.

“The principal thing they are doing when they come [on] is reaching out to women voters,” says Bill Geddie, executive producer of ABC’s The View and a veteran of scoring daytime political “get” interviews. “They know we’ll be talking about issues. [Wives of candidates] are reaching out to female voters and selling something so much bigger than how much they love their husbands or how cute they are together.”

“Presuming that the most sought-after segment of the electorate, other than uncommitted voters, is women, the daytime talk shows are the most efficient way to reach [them],” says Bill Carroll, vice president, director of programming, Katz Television Group.

In the weeks since the new TV season launched on Sept. 10, President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama and Republican nominee Mitt Romney and his wife, Ann Romney, have appeared on daytime talk shows several times. The Obamas stopped by The View on Sept. 25; the Romneys appeared on Disney/ABC Television’s Live! With Kelly and Michael on Sept. 18.

And while the president and Romney have made their daytime appearances relatively scarce, the First Lady, in particular, is one of daytime TV’s most frequent guests, appearing on Warner Bros.’ Ellen, CBS Television Distribution’s Rachael Ray, Sony’s Dr. Oz and NBCUniversal’s Steve Harvey in the past six weeks alone. While Michelle Obama wants to support her husband’s campaign to remain president, she also has her own programs to promote, as she works to educate the population on the dangers of childhood obesity.

Political appearances on daytime TV work well both for the political figures, who reach their desired target audience, and for the shows, which often see a small ratings increase as a result—not to mention plenty of media coverage.

For example, when Michelle Obama appeared on Live! on Oct. 19, the show averaged a 3.3 rating/11 share in households in the weighted metered markets, 13% higher than the rest of the week’s average 2.9/10. And when the Romneys appeared on Live!, they provided a similar boost—to a 3.1/11 from a 2.9/10.

“We absolutely see a ratings bump when we have someone like Michelle Obama or Ann Romney on,” says Janet Annino, executive producer of Rachael Ray, which hosted the First Lady on Sept. 17. “The president recently made that joke about himself and Jay-Z, saying that they are both married to women who are more popular than they are.”

In fact, Rachael Ray is still landing political guests: Ann Romney appeared on Oct. 25 and took viewers on a tour of a Costco, where she showed them how she bargain-shops for her family, Annino says. And on Nov. 1, just days before the election, House minority leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) will pay Rachael a visit.

“Like all daytime shows, our audience is largely female. I think it’s a great way for these women to show that part of themselves to our audience,” says Annino. “They get to show viewers that, ‘I’m a woman just like you, I feed a family just like you, and I too want to be the best mother, wife, partner, friend and person I can be.’ They get to show off parts of themselves that they don’t get to show anywhere else.”

Live! also hopes to create a fun environment for its more serious guests, says executive producer Michael Gelman, giving guests a mix of political and pop-culture questions. “We aren’t looking for a ‘gotcha’ moment,” Gelman says. “We are looking to let people see them as they are.”

Politicos don’t get that break on The View, says Geddie, and that’s what makes the show unique.

“If Michelle Obama is coming on to talk about childhood obesity, our questions are going to be a little tougher and a little stronger [than the other daytime shows]. That’s just the nature of this show. We asked Ann Romney both how she met her husband and how much she loved him and also asked her tough questions about abortion rights.” Indeed, Whoopi Goldberg’s questions about abortion, the Romneys’ Mormon faith and war generated plenty of Web traction.

“Coming on our show offers both a high risk and a high reward,” continues Geddie. “The risk is that we aren’t just going to throw softballs at you for an hour. But the reward is that you have a lot of eyes on you.”

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