Folks in Santa Barbara County watching the Olympics this week on NBC affiliate KSBY might believe that Barrack Obama, John McCain and a fellow named Tony Strickland are all running on the same political ticket.
With the exception of McCain, who couldn't resist throwing a negative zinger in his ad, the message of the ads is the same: energy independence, job-creating alternative energy, clean energy.
While the other two are running for higher office, Strickland is running for state Senate -- and his TV ad comes unusually early in the campaign. It opens with images of Olympic athletes, followed by the Statue of Liberty. Strickland tells viewers that the Olympics "remind us that America is at its greatest when we face our challenges together." It closes with him saying: "Energy independence. We can do it, and we can do it together."
The message is in keeping with Strickland's attempt to reinvent himself from the tax-cutting conservative that has always before been his political calling card to an alternative energy visionary. Because he joined with a handful of other investors last year to create a company that is seeking federal permits for a wave energy project, Strickland lists his ballot designation as "alternative energy executive."
Judging from the content of both his ad and those of the two presidential candidates, it's clear that polls and focus groups are telling campaigns this year that energy -- and its impact on the economy -- is the issue foremost on their minds.