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Some titles (including GQ rival Esquire) have made do with pick-up art throughout the campaign season and since Obama won, but GQ sent Mark Seliger to join the candidate’s press corps and hope for two minutes access. He got just under that time in Philadelphia, shooting Obama in front of a white sheet hung in a doorway after a rally. “It was very guerrilla,” Seliger told WWD.
GQ put Obama on its cover in September 2007, selling 245,105 copies on the newsstand, slightly down from the comparable issue in 2006. In the story, chief strategist David Axelrod told Ryan Lizza, “Frankly, I could do with fewer cover stories generally....It can get overdone. This is a really profound guy in many ways, and you don’t want him trivialized.” These days, Obama has created his own newsstand bounce among weeklies and commemorative editions bearing his face.
Compared to the more boyish and eager cover last year, Seliger said, “I think he looks really like a man. He looks a little bit more mature and he certainly looks wiser and strong.”
One of last year’s Men of the Year was Bill Clinton, who reportedly threatened to yank access if GQ did not kill an unfavorable story by Joshua Green about his wife’s campaign. At the time, GQ editor in chief Jim Nelson told the Washington Post, “I guarantee and promise you, if I’d have had a great Hillary piece, I would have run it.” Much of the material ended up running in The Atlantic, by that point illuminating the internal squabbles that helped derail her campaign.
— Irin Carmon