Mr. Obama spent more than $3 million to showcase the plight of everyday Americans and outline his intentions for helping them in a spot broadcast on all but one major network, plus BET and Univision.
The McCain campaign dismissed the TV spot as a mere sales pitch.
“As anyone who has bought anything from an infomercial knows, the sales job is always better than the product,” McCain campaign spokesman Tucker Bounds said. “Buyer beware.”
On the stump, the Republican candidate himself mocked Mr. Obama’s ad in similar terms, saying: “As with other infomercials, he’s got a few things he wants to sell you: He’s offering government-run health care, … an energy plan guaranteed to work without drilling … and an automatic wealth spreader that folds neatly and fits under any bed.”
The “real stories” in the Obama infomercial included Rebecca Johnston, a mother struggling to make ends meet in North Kansas City, Mo., and 72-year-old Larry Stuart, who had to mortgage his home in Sardinia, Ohio, and come out of retirement to afford medicine for his chronically ill wife.
“We have to stop just talking about health care reform and lost jobs and energy independence and finally do something about it,” Mr. Obama said.
He said he would pay for his plans - expanding health care coverage, spending $15 billion a year on alternative energy projects, giving tax credits for buying fuel-efficient cars - by cutting spending, improving government efficiency and eliminating failing federal programs.
“Across the country, families are tightening their belts, and so should Washington,” he said. “And one of the biggest savings we can make is to change our policy in Iraq.”
The Obama ad was expected to attract record viewers as many watched television to see what may be the final game of the Phillies-Rays World Series. It was produced by Academy Award winner Davis Guggenheim and includes footage from Mr. Obama’s more than 20 months on the campaign trail.
Billionaire candidate H. Ross Perot in 1992 in his failed independent bid for the presidency was the last politician to use such a tactic. Mr. Obama has outspent Mr. McCain, having raised more than $600 million for his presidential bid while Mr. McCain agreed to take $84 million in public funds.
At the Milton A. Barlow Center in Foggy Bottom, Brigham Young University students spending a semester in the District at area internships gathered to watch, passed around chocolate and made election night plans.
“This is great for Barack Obama, but I don’t think this is going to help his campaign. I think this is about building consensus if he does become president after this rough election,” said Cecily Vincent, 20.
A couple of students cheered when Mr. Obama vowed to defend the country. During the segment about seniors facing challenges, Andrew Skabelund, 23, said: “This is depressing, the melodramatic music.”
Brooke Robinson, 19, said: “The Obama-mercial was just reconfirming the same type of stuff from his campaign, but I enjoyed it.”
After the Obama ad ran, Mr. McCain made a one-hour appearance on CNN’s “Larry King Live” program.