accountabilitybloke (old blog)

we have moved to mjdubnick.dubnick.net/blog

Some thoughts on the 2008 election campaign….

There are all sorts of opinions about last night’s debate, strong on both sides. That is an indication of one thing: neither Obama nor McCain screwed up enough to warrant being declared the loser.

Which means that the campaign itself — rather than the debates — will likely be the determining factor. And from a political science point-of-view there is an interesting contest going on between two completely distinct strategies (and I don’t mean tactics).

It is always tough to simplify such things effectively, but I would articulate the contest as “ground game” versus “air war.” Neither camp is foolish enough to do one or the other exclusively, but they seem to be stressing different ones.

The air war strategy has dominated in presidential elections at least since 1968, and was nicely introduced to us via Joe McGinniss’ The Selling of the President. (For those who are fans of Mad Men, the seeds of this are dramatized in some early episodes in references to the 1960 election.) Nixon essentially turned over the campaign to PR professionals (Haldeman and Erlichman being the most famous). Political scientist Darrell West has written THE BOOK on political air wars, and it is certainly the focus of most punditry as folks scrutinize each and every advert that is posted by the campaigns.

The ground game approach is the more traditional — some would say anachronistic — campaign strategy. It is the door-to-door, precinct level strategy that was the rationale and cause of forming political party organizations. It is alive and well at the local level (e.g., here and here), and in some communities is the only way to win office. It relies on the same logic as community organizing (of the Saul Alinsky type; here and here), and many would argue is irrelevant above the local level in a political age where mass media has become the major form of electioneering.

September 27th, 2008 Posted by | accountabilitybloke | no comments