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Anticipating the video….

For someone who makes a living thinking about politics, I have to admit in having a sense of awe regarding the way the Obama campaign has been managed. While I have relatively strong partisan political views, my respect for strategically savvy political campaigning is not subject to any strong bias — despite very negative feelings about what Karl Rove accomplished, I remain awestruck by what he accomplished in 2004 through his narrowly targeted mobilization of the “base” (especially in Ohio) and 2000 (in strategic decisions that created Florida opportunity for Bush to steal the election).

But from all we know at the moment (and that is not as much as we hope to know in the future), the Obama campaign is likely to be seen as a perfect case study of how to win the presidency in this day and age.

Perhaps the icing on the cake will be the much-anticipated Wednesday night broadcast — no one seems to know what they have in store for us, but it is doubtful we are going to witness merely a talking head presentation. What is hinted at is a well-crafted presentation by a professional production staff, and there have been some examples — snippets, really –from time to time in the amazingly well done video streams coming from the campaign site.

Perhaps a good hint is a recent — and amazingly effective — 11-12 minute video the campaign put out aimed at the now infamous Florida Jewish vote. This was a tough nut to crack, but surveys seem to indicate that Obama’s support nationally among Jewish voters exceeds the numbers for Kerry in 2004. You have to understand just how deeply suspicious the pre-boomer Jewish community has been toward the African-American community to grasp the significance of this accomplishment — and the video gives some idea of how it is being done.

But more to the point, if the half-hour presentation on Wednesday night is half as effective, we might actually see that landslide that no one really wants to predict at the moment….

October 28th, 2008 Posted by | accountabilitybloke | no comments

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