All ready for tonight’s variety show? Think it’s novel? Adam Serwer says, not so much.

David Schwartz, the curator of the Museum of the Moving Image and their recent Living Room Candidate exhibit, which explores the history of political advertising in presidential elections, says that Obama’s buy isn’t that unusual. In fact, he says that “It was a tradition…candidates used to buy time on election eve,” in half hour slots in order to make their final case. This didn’t end until fairly recently, Dukakis and Bush I were the last candidates to do so in 1988, and Schwartz says the change in dynamic was mostly because of the rise of cable news, which allowed candidates to get large amounts of free TV time. It’s less clear that Obama’s choice is a wise one, Adlai Stevenson bought eight weeks of 30 minute slots to air a series of his speeches when he faced Eisenhower, who relied on short spots. Eisenhower of course, defeated Stevenson. What makes Obama’s buy unusual is that it is that it will be carried on several networks, it’s airing six days before the election, and that it occurs at a time when buying TV time is considerably more expensive.

Just another way in which Obama harks reassuringly back to America’s finest traditions. I like Ike! And, er, Obe.