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The Democratic Strategist

Political Strategy for a Permanent Democratic Majority

Messaging, Registration and Turnout Decisions Key to Election

The trickiest decisions to be made in the closing weeks of the presidential campaign involve the optimum allocation of candidate time, energy and money. The campaigns have to decide how much emphasis and resources they will put into four key messaging tools: speeches; ads; debates and interviews. Among the considerations:
In 2000 Al Gore delivered the best speech of his career to date, when he accepted the Democratic nomination. He looked terrific and it was well-filmed. I remember thinking “Boy, they can make great ads with clips from this speech.” But we never saw any of it again. Speeches are obviously Obama’s strong card, and he will be making plenty of them over the next 7 weeks. But it would be a shame to leave it at that. The Obama campaign should repackage his speeches into a “greatest hits” anthology and buy a fat block of TV time to show them and the huge cheering crowds to the nation, not just stump audiences thither and yon. We Dems haven’t had a speaker this good since JFK. We shouldn’t pay any attention to the McCain campaign’s snarky references to our candidate’s oratory. People want to be inspired, and Obama can deliver the goods. If we don’t make the fullest use of Obama’s speaking skills, we will flunk.
What I have seen of the new Obama ads is encouraging. On the whole, they are pretty sharp and punchy. TV is still king, but other media are critical as well, especially the internet and radio. A new and important consideration this cycle is recycling or producing ads on the internet, going viral with YouTube etc. Plus the always difficult choices to be made about money and TV markets well in advance of broadcast.
There will only be three presidential debates (see details and formats here) plus one veep debate, and both tickets will put in a lot of prep time. Here Obama should focus on soundbite-sized responses to questions, and avoid the temptation to explain things to smithereens. As PA Gov. Ed. Rendell put it, “We’ve got to start smacking back in short understandable bites.” McCain already knows this. Dems might consult with John Stewart and Bill Maher for some punchy zingers. It’s a shame ‘where’s the beef’ has already been done, since it fits the GOP ticket so perfectly. No question should elicit a long, rambling answer. If the question is off point or softball, Obama should practice seizing the opportunity to respond along the lines of “Well, the more important question/point is…”
Media interviews are free ads, as well as potential minefields. McCain may have an edge here, since he gets more free rides from MSM reporters, and his proclivity for shorter answers serves him well. Obama might try floating more zingers in his interviews. A good one-liner can become a devastating meme. A ‘Where’s the beef’ type zinger could be used here as well. Despite an occasional gaffe, Biden may be the best interview in both parties, as evidenced by his record number of MTP appearances. Using his skills more extensively than has been the case for veep nominees thus far could help the ticket.
Apart from messaging, both presidential campaigns will be at full bore in taking advantage of early voting opportunities and in registering their key constituencies before the voter registration deadlines. About half the states will close registration by October 7th, less than a month away. The key decision here is targeting the most likely swing states, and the calculations change almost daily. But the turnout mobilization has to happen everywhere. The “Movement” aspect of the Obama campaign may well provide a decisive edge in turnout — and for victory in a close election.

2 comments on “Messaging, Registration and Turnout Decisions Key to Election

  1. cvh1789 on

    An intelligent comment I read at the New Republic website suggests a particular line of attack: describe the Republican Party as “the bridge to nowhere.” That would work for Palin and McCain.
    What follows is the entire post:
    “Look, it is time, and it is necessary, to get over the surprise at the tactics of
    the Republican party. Republicans believe in NOTHING. The Republican party is a
    giant criminal organization devoted to one thing, no two: theft and ostentatious
    displays of power. Other than the fact that we don’t live in a society where
    extreme brutality is necessary to remain in power, there is very little that
    separates Saddam Hussein from the modern Republican party. Their gassy patriotism
    is bullshit. Their economic theology is bullshit. Their purported concern for the
    little guy is absolutely laughable.
    Given that the Republican party has no interest in governing the country, only in
    stealing from the country, they have no more scruple about what they say and do than
    the mafia would. Would anyone express shock at the “cynicism” of mafiosi telling
    lies? Of course not. That would be ridiculous because we already understand that
    they are criminals. The Republicans are criminals, one and all, including John
    McCain. They will say and do anything, absolutely anything, that they think will
    have the desired political impact. They do not even pause for a moment to think
    about whether what they are saying is true because it is completely irrelevant from
    their point of view. And they understand that, when you are caught lying, you just
    repeat the lie louder and with a great display of outrage at being called a liar.
    Time for the Democrats and Obama, at the least since there is not much hope that the
    press will awake from its stupor in the face of these vicious tactics, the see the
    enemy for what it is — THE ENEMY of our country — and be prepared to do what it
    It is not necessary for the Democrats to lie. It is only necessary for them
    relentlessly and singlemindedly to smear John McCain with all of the shit that he
    has left in his wake during his political career. Display him lying and ask why a
    man who claims honor is the most important think stoops to such blatant lying
    tactics. Hang him over and over and over again with Phil Gramm sneering at
    Americans as “whiners.” Hang him with his incestuous relationship to Washington
    lobbyists and corruption. You don’t talk about Republican hypocrisy, you display
    it, and since the Republicans contradict themselves at every turn without batting an
    eye — like all good Stalinists — you SHOW them contradicting themselves and you
    impugn their honesty, their competence, and their devotion to duty, country, or
    anything but pocketing as many millions as they can for bridges to nowhere. The
    Republican party IS the bridge to nowhere. That’s a good theme. “The Republican
    party didn’t just try to build the bridge to nowhere at a cost of hundreds of
    millions of dollars, the Republican party is the bridge to nowhere. It cannot
    protect us from our enemies. It cannot protect us from falling behind in global
    competition. It cannot protect us from the storms and natural disasters the result
    from climate change. It is not just the party of the past, it is the party of no
    place, no program, no values.”
    It is time for the Democrats to recognize that they cannot win a dirty war and
    expect to be clean. You cannot win an actual war without killing people, innocent
    people. Any decent human being should feel soiled by that and recoil at the
    necessity. But it is a necessity. Kicking out the disgusting, predatory Republican
    party requires getting down in the muck where it lives and defeating it there. We
    will not feel clean when we have done so, but our civic responsibility is to kick
    these bums out, NOW, before our the economic, military, and moral decline of our
    beautiful country goes any further.”

  2. ThinkingGuy on

    Agreed. The oratory of Obama is one of those surface shiny things Dems can actually use, and use effectively, to get the attention of the lazy voters. It has that bad side to it, but unlike most of our stuff, there is another edge to this sword. We should carpet bomb that kind of stuff.
    Same with the debates. The MSM is a huge problem, but if they right small things are said, someone will catch on to it, because it’s easy to cover.
    He must dumb down from the debates in the primary..as they have proven election after election, the voters are neither sophisticated nor intelligent creatures. Keep them busy.


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