In the spirit of the Memorial Day holiday, and the fact that eventually all Democrats will be united in support of the Democratic Party nominee, let’s be kind and generous today.
We have thought for well over a year now that the Democratic nominee for 2008 will be Hillary. Since her announcement of candidacy Hillary has led in just about every national poll taken. Hillary leads in just about every state poll taken too. This week’s Rasmussen poll says “The stability of her support has become the defining feature of the Democratic Presidential competition.” Why Hillary leads is apparent. Not only is she the best candidate for president, with the best positions and understanding of issues, Hillary is also running the best campaign.
Let’s do a bit of quickie remedial politics.
First of all, a campaign for president is a collective effort designed to win the election. The candidate is a component in the race – as are the volunteers, field staff, policy staff, communications staff, strategists, finance committee, and allied organizations, etc. The campaign must have a message and that message should be repeated and repeated and repeated as well as emphasized in as many ways as possible, including internet and television. It is an effort by the whole. That is why it is called a “campaign”. It is not called a “candidate” or a “volunteer” or a “message”. It is a “campaign” with the candidate in a leadership position, promoting her issues and positions using a crafted message and assisted by volunteers, and paid staff.
Let’s start with Bill Richardson’s campaign. As we have written before, Governor Richardson has a great deal to offer, but he is falling woefully short on execution. We will not discuss what we hear was a bad performance by Richardson on Meet the Press this past Sunday. We will not discuss the bad performance by Richardson during the first Democratic debate. Let’s understand the actual message Richardson’s campaign is conveying.
We know that Richardson’s campaign wants to convey the message of the Remarkable Richardson Résumé (feel free to use our three R’s construction Governor). However, the Richardson campaign is letting down Richardson with their inept message communication. The Richardson campaign has paid for, produced and aired a commerical which conveys the worse possible image of the Governor and reinforces a growing negative perception of Governor Richardson. A commerical message is the one thing a campaign has complete control over so when they make a mess of a commercial the campaign has deep deep problems.
The commerical the Richardson campaign is airing is set in a cramped office. It appears to be a job interview. In the course of the commerical the Governor’s long list of accomplishments is spoken. The Governor, sitting in a metal folding chair he barely fits into, looks forlorn. Please take note Richardson campaign: This commerical succeeds only in making Richardson look foolish. The medium you are using is television not talkavision – the image is what matters. The image this commercial conveys is of a somewhat fat and foolish and forlorn man trying desperately to get a job. This is simply bad television guys. The image that ends the commercial of Richardson with a lost puppy look does not help Richardson and it is this image which sticks in the memory. The commerical is funny if you are listening and paying attention to it. But most people are not paying close attention, all they see is the hefty Richardson sitting in a metal folding chair looking silly.
The Richardson campaign is turning the good Governor into a Falstaff. Dump your media people Governor.
The Edwards campaign is simply a mess. We will examine his mess of a campaign in a later post which will probably have to include a table of contents to catalog all the mistakes this mess of a campaign has made.
When Obama entered the presidential race, he efffectively stole Edwards’ intended campaign message. Edwards wanted to run on his “two Americas” theme. But let’s be honest Edwards campaign: Obama the Black and White person is the two Americas message personified. We suspect the Edwards campaign early on realized the peril they faced. For instance, in December 2006, when it became apparent that Obama was going to run for president, the Edwards campaign at the last minute rescheduled their candidacy announcement for the low impact Christmas week in order to beat Obama in announcing. While the Edwards campaign realized that Obama took their campaign message the Edwards campaign never came up with a new message to replace their lost one.
We thought Edwards would retool his campaign and try to run as the Male, Heterosexual, Southern, White, Religious, Populist candidate. This posture conceivably would have been strong. Southern candidates do well and get elected president as Democrats. As the White Male candidate Edwards also could have distinguished himself from his Latino, African-American, and Female opponents and possibly acquired a distinuishing niche in the top tier of the presidential race.
Instead of running a populist campaign, Edwards decided to become the candidate of the unnuanced left. This has led to disaster after disaster.
Briefly, as the candidate of the unnuanced left, Edwards has had to disavow his history and record. Not only did Edwards support the Iraq war, Edwards was a co-sponsor of the war resolution. Edwards also has had to disavow his vote on the bankruptcy bill which severely hurt the poor and middle class. “But Edwards’ focus on the disenfranchised has also left him open to allegations of hypocrisy. Wealthy from his career as a lawyer, Edwards has been pummeled by reports that he spent $400 for haircuts, built himself a 28,000-square-foot mansion on a 100-acre estate, and did consulting work for a hedge fund that trafficked in offshore investing of the sort he had criticized.”
As a candidate of the unnuanced left, Edwards also became a candidate desperate for support from the Nutroots. By use of the term Nutroots we mean the dishonest owners of the big blogs, not the many good people who post on those blogs. This part of the Edwards strategy does seem to be working. Clearly the owners of Dailykooks and MyDud are working on behalf of Edwards even as these owners continue to dishonestly proclaim their impartiality in the presidential race. But this Nutroots support has come at a great cost.
For instance, Edwards hired, then fired, then rehired, only to see them eventually quit, a pair of bloggers for his campaign. This duo of creative writers was hired by the campaign even though their creativity led them to occasionally write things that to most Americans are controversial. For instance they ruminated on the seminal fluids of Jesus. This hiring caused an uproar especially among Roman Catholics. Ordinarily a sensible political campaign weighs the value of two bloggers as opposed to potentially losing the tens of millions of Roman Catholics who vote. A sensible campaign would see how this episode plays out in a general election. Sensible campaigns fire the bloggers immediately, and hope the controversy dies. But in this case the Edwards campaign chose the bloggers over Roman Catholic votes. This was just plain dumb. Imagine, a campaign which risks losing millions of voters in order to stay in favor with a few over an issue that at best was a mistake to begin with. Dumb, dumb, dumb.
The Obama campaign is a befuddlement too. Here we have a candidate with at best, if we ignore his actual inexperience, a not very clear public image. Knowing of this lack of public knowledge about their candidate the Obama campaign is pursuing a unique strategy: Let the public know Obama is a lurchlike lunkhead. And who conveys this dubious message? His wife.
The Associated Press today, like many publications before, writes about this “lunkhead” strategy. “He doesn’t put his worn socks in with the dirty clothes. He’s worse than a 5-year-old at making the bed. And after he eats, he doesn’t put away the butter.” On the positive side, the AP reports that “It’s the sort of intimate ribbing that makes a famous person seem more regular, and observers say it helps humanize the first-term senator…” and “By joking about his domestic foibles, Michelle Obama is showing herself as a woman who doesn’t kowtow to her husband….”
We disagree. First of all, whether or not Michelle Obama does “kowtow” to hubby is not the issue. Americans are assessing her husband for the highest office in the land and her campaign message is “my hubby is a lunkhead”. Because Americans don’t know Obama the AP writes, “Still, there’s always a chance some voters could be turned off by the domestic exchanges because it’s not the macho image they like to see in presidential candidates…” The AP misses the larger point. It’s not the “macho” image Americans are concerned about. The point is, Do Americans want another “lunkhead” for president? We have one already.
After making sure Americans know Obama is a lunkhead, the Obama campaign then switches gears to persuade Americans Obama is a great leader. The way to do this is by holding big rallies with thousands, if not tens of thousands of people cheering and shouting. It’s an interesting strategy, if it would work. The last person who tried this strategy was Ralph Nader.
In 2000, the Naderites who lionize Al Gore today called him Al Bore. The same nasty complaints heard about Al Gore then, are repeated by the Naderites about Hillary today. The same invective was used. The same strategies were used. The Naderites used low dollar “super rallies” to create excitement and to say their candidate was someone new with loads of experience as a community organizer.
New York – “About 15,000 supporters packed a sold-out Madison Square Garden to voice their noisy enthusiasm for Green Party presidential candidate Ralph Nader, angrily criticizing his exclusion from the recent presidential debates and hailing him as a reinvigorating force for democracy. The mostly 20- and 30-something crowd paid $20 each for tickets to the Friday night rally, billed as “Nader Rocks the Garden.”
“The Madison Square Garden rally is the sixth in a series of volunteer-coordinated rallies that have drawn the largest crowds for any presidential candidate, demonstrating a groundswell of grassroots support for Nader/LaDuke. Crowds of 10-12,000 have turned out to the paid rallies in Portland, Minneapolis, Seattle and Boston demanding Nader’s participation in the presidential debates.”
University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee from 1:00pm to 2:00pm in the Wisconsin Room. Admission is free. Madison on the campus of the University of Wisconsin from 7:00pm to 10:00pm at the Orpheum (216 State St.). This one is a fundraiser so the “donation” is $10.00. Michigan Tour day. First, a stop in Ann Arbor at the Michigan Theatre at 12:30pm. Then it’s on to Flint! Whiting Auditorium at 5:00pm. Michigan State in their main auditorium sometime after 7:00pm. massive rally in Minneapolis at the Target Center with all of us in attendance. Over 10,000 people are expected. Ralph has been pulling enormous crowds wherever he
speaks. Over 10,000 paid $7 each to hear him in Portland (2,000 were turned away). When Gore came to Flint on Labor Day, late in the evening, he could barely get a few hundred to show up — in the capital of American Labor! In fact, in order to guarantee an audience, they took Gore to the city hospital to speak. That is definitely one place where you have a captive audience — bedridden and medicated is perhaps the best way to listen to our vice president!”
” Familiar with the TV show West Wing? It’s popular because it’s a romance: a story of true love at first sight between voters and their candidate. Roy Bartlett (Martin Sheen’s character), not initially the favored Democratic candidate, comes on to the scene like a charismatic fireball: willing to take a stand on the tough issues. The voters are infatuated with him, and he doesn’t let them down. There’s very little compromising done by the Bartlett administration, and the differences between Democrats and Republican are as clear as night and day. Not realistic of course, but there’s still a certain charm to the moment where we see one of the staff watching him speak for the first time. You can almost see the chills going down his spine, and you can’t help but think: “Ah, there it is: true inspiration.” Believe it or not, that is what I experienced at the Nader rally: inspiration.
It wasn’t just Nader’s speech that moved me, it was everything. We arrived a half hour late, and were herded up to seats on the third balcony, overlooking the entirety of the Garden, filled to the brim with eager participants, swaying back and forth as Ani DiFranco strummed her guitar and sang. Ben Harper, Eddie Vedder, and Tim Robbins (as Republican Senator parody Bob Roberts) all performed as well, and each time a song ended, bright lights fell upon the cheering crowd giving each member a certain glow as they stood above their seats, leapt up and down with their fists held high, and waved signs above their heads. There was something in the air… a vibe, that everyone was breathing in and getting high off of at once.”
Super rallies did not work for Nader. Having your candidate called a lunkhead by the wife is not too bright. Policy speeches cut and pasted from other candidates don’t work. Time to retool.