The PoliPulse snapshot into the online conversation around the Tea Party movement offers some interesting insights into both the motivations of the grassroots movement as well as the polarization it is stirring.
Days away from an election, pollsters and campaigns are asking how motivated will voters self-identified as Tea Partiers be? The PoliPulse snapshot indicates the answer is very motivated. A full 41 percent of the Tea Party conversation are anti-Obama (11 percent), protesting Democrats (17 percent) or protesting taxes or government (13 percent). Having more than four in 10 conversations, especially among members of loose-knit organizations, unified around essentially the same message — a protest against incumbent Democrats — points to cohesion. And cohesion among voting blocs typically leads to large turn-out numbers.
There has been a significant amount of news coverage around racist acts at Tea Party rallies. The online dialogue gives some depth to how this coverage has seeped into the public’s consciousness. Of all the rationale given by those who say they oppose the Tea Party, one-fifth of the discussion says the Tea Party is about racism and hate. Interestingly, 9 percent of the online chatter seems to try to push back against that notion with a declaration that they aren’t racists. Any way you slice it, having 24 percent of the entire online conversation center on racism is strikingly high.
The contrasts in the online dialogue around tea parties are stark. Those supporting the Tea Party indicate they are protesting Democrats and government while many of those opposing it say it’s rooted in racism.
We clearly are witnessing a “Mad as Hell” electorate.
With eight days remaining to campaign and get persuasive advertising repetitiously on the air, it’s time to take a quick assessment of the spots that have garnered attention so far. It’s too early to tell whether these ads will work or backfire as thankfully voters actually get the final say on the body of work ad makers produce.
While nobody has produced a spot like LBJ did in 1964, the 2010 campaign has seen its fair share of eye-popping attack ads that would make even Don Draper blush. That’s because no matter how often voters complain about negative advertising, one constant about them remains: they work.
As the 10-year-old daughter of Colorado Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) recently said when her father teased her about backtracking on his promise to buy the family a dog after the campaign: “Well, I’d run a negative ad against you.”
With many races tightening in the waning days of the campaign, I’m sure we’ll see a few more vitriolic ads, but in the meantime I wanted to highlight a few:
- Kentucky senatorial candidate Jack Conway (D) accusing his opponent Rand Paul (R) of worshiping Aqua Buddha. This ad contains some essential attack ad elements that are fair game in brawling political contests: 1) pull quotes from your opponent’s past and insinuate he/she said them recently; and 2) close with a spooky question leaving voters to question the integrity of your opponent.
- Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is in the fight of his political life with Tea Party-backed state legislator Sharon Angle (R). Angle may be running as the ultimate outsider, but her attack ads are right out of the playbook. In going for the jugular, Angle uses two tried-and-true tactics: 1) use your opponent’s own words against him (Reid’s “living on a fixed income” statement, which was rather unfortunate if you are a Reid supporter) and; 2) asserting your opponent is out of touch, living large in D.C. and insensitive to the struggles of folks back home.
A bit less salacious than attack ads, but for me equally compelling is the bio spot. Usually these are soft and warm. This year, I highlight two:
- What would a advertising post be without turning our attention to Delaware and Christine O’Donnell. In this spot, O’Donnell makes a major error by repeating a negative (“I am not a witch”) in an otherwise warm 30-second piece that actually might have connected with voters. But any connection to voters, in my view, is wholly undermined with the spot’s opening line.
- Another bio spot worth noting is from billionaire California gubernatorial candidate Meg Whitman (R) who is using a very sophisticated micro-targeting strategy to challenge Jerry Brown (D). In this spot, Whitman amps up the micro-targeting strategy by having a bio spot in Cantonese. The former eBay CEO is leaving no stone unturned to win votes in a heavily Democratic state.
If you don’t like political advertising – especially negative ads – you only have a handful more of days to stomach them. But if you are like me, buckle up and enjoy the ride until November 2.
The National Football League has decided to crack down on “flagrant hits” — cheap shots and devastating tackles that might give players a concussion. The NFL has offered only minimal guidelines to follow for the penalties, fines and suspensions that may be issued. Ultimately, the referees will decide.
Along those lines, I would like to see precautions applied to political campaigns for the midterm elections. Consider the gubernatorial race in New York, among the nastiest in recent memory. Republican Carl Paladino has made nasty accusations against Democrat Andrew Cuomo, including adultery and lacking adequate virility.
Such viciousness now seems all but epidemic. Witness John McCain’s comments the other day that his Senate colleague Barbara Boxer is a threat to national security who should be fired. Indeed, attack ads this season are actually running 10-1 negative over positive.
By our reckoning, tough talk is fine. When it comes to the issues themselves, everything is fair game. As a case in point, Connecticut senatorial candidate Linda McMahon called out her Democratic adversary Dick Blumenthal for claiming — falsely, it turned out — that he served in Vietnam. That’s legitimate.
So it goes in our counsel about public affairs issues to clients, whether corporations, trade associations or federal agencies. Let the facts speak for themselves. Trot out the latest, most persuasive data. Appeal to logic and reason as much as to emotion. Keep it positive if feasible. Above all, respect the truth.
To be sure, this is no Pollyana call for the campaign trail to suddenly break out in acts of gentility. The high road can take many different directions. We like to see our clients win key battles on Capitol Hill as well as build thriving businesses and strong brands and sterling reputations.
That’s always our strategy as a true business partner. But ideally we’ll all maintain a sense of decency, free of low blows.
In football, most fans know what’s right and what’s wrong on the field when they see it. But the refs are the ones who get to enforce the standards.
With Election Day fast approaching, the American voter once again shares that privilege, too.
Fall is a time of new beginnings — for the Supreme Court, the first Monday in October means the start of a new term dealing with what are among the most weighty and controversial cases in the land.
The cases taken up by the Supreme Court each term cut to the very core of our American value system, touching on issues like rights to religion and free speech, expressions of patriotism, and access to quality education and health care. These issues captivate us on a personal level, but the court’s decisions also have a very profound impact on the way commerce is conducted in this country, and we must watch these cases closely for the impact they will have on our businesses and on the business community in general.
There’s no question the court will consider a number of cases this term with very clear consequences for major corporations, including several federal pre-emption cases, a whistle blower case and an immigration case.
But the court’s upcoming case load doesn’t pertain only to large corporations — this term, the Supreme Court will also consider several cases with consequences for small and medium-sized businesses. These cases involve questions about provisions of the Fair Labor Standards Act, alleged violations of federal securities laws and product liability implications when a company is based outside of a court’s jurisdiction.
For communications professionals, the judicial branch is often more mysterious and harder to influence than the legislative or executive branches of government. However, it is every bit as important due to the profound impact of the Supreme Court’s decisions on the way our businesses operate.
Corporations and associations are accustomed to keeping their eyes trained on every action taken by Congress and the administration, but the Supreme Court docket deserves a close look as well.
Earlier this month, the Washington Post explored the new communications technologies shaping the upcoming midterm elections. Voices in the piece came from two sides:
1. People who believe that the way we communicate has evolved since Barack Obama’s historic 2008 campaign.
2. People who seeking to utilize “all the Obama bells and whistles” only to watch them languish.
Those in the latter camp learned a lesson the hard way: digital campaigns don’t make themselves, and simply because your campaign bought an off-the-shelf text messaging service doesn’t mean you’re using it effectively. The best strategists take technologies and weave them into a seamless user experience — whether that be for a political campaign, advocacy or nonprofit fundraising.
What’s the upshot of this for most American legislative campaigns? Well, for one, you probably don’t need your own iPhone app. (For example, the Democratic National Committee created one centralized app. This is helpful for each candidate, since they don’t have to create their own app — and it’s also helpful for voters, who don’t need to download several different apps to keep tabs on the various candidates they support.)
Is it true, as Republican consultant Wesley Donehue says in the Washington Post article, that no one is going to a candidate’s website every day? It’s true only if you don’t give them a reason to.
The lesson is that it doesn’t matter what technology you’re using, or how many Facebook “likes” you have — what matters is how you use them and the end experience for your target audience.
The Chileans got it right. Under the gaze of a global audience, the reality show “Trapped” came to a thrilling and joyous conclusion last night. Watching the 33rd and final miner emerge from the tiny rescue capsule, it occurred to me that the Chileans had shown the world not only the right way to run a crisis, but the best way to advance their country’s reputation.
Communicators everywhere can a learn a few things from the Chileans:
1. Everything is a reality show. Rather than fight the human and media interest in the fate of the miners and the effort to raise them to safety, Chilean officials embraced it and all the risk associated. They arranged a tent city just off the edge of the rescue effort from which media could cover the unfolding drama, offered public officials and rescue workers to discuss their every move, and even lowered a camera into the mine that beamed back a live feed of life trapped underground. To be sure, the results were not always pretty, but on balance, the world was able to see for themselves just how difficult the challenge was and how hard the rescue team was working every day.
2. Despite a massive disaster that kept 33 men in life threatening peril for 70 days, today’s headlines are largely about the miraculous recovery rather than the original failure. Why? Because the Chileans put all their energy into fixing the problem rather than affixing the blame. Contrast this with the recent Gulf oil spill, in which U.S. officials spent more time talking about what went wrong and who was to blame rather than what they were doing to contain the oil and cap the well. As a result, despite a successful effort to contain the oil spill from destroying beaches and precious ecosystems, many Americans and international observers still think the gulf oil spill response was a failure. When in fact the response to the oil spill also featured remarkable technical innovation, hard work and leadership.
3. The Chileans were already well-known for excellent disaster relief capabilities. But they weren’t too proud to seek international assistance to help rescue their miners. The contrast with the U.S. and other nations often seek to limit international support in crises is stark. Not only were the Chileans able to find innovative solutions from beyond their borders, but accepting their support actually helps their long-term reputation on the global stage.
Over the last 70 days, observers around the world saw a nation singularly focused on the welfare of its citizens, immensely capable of mounting a remarkable rescue and humble enough to seek assistance of anyone who could aid them in their cause. All of this played out on a live TV feed for a massive worldwide audience to see, hear and experience for themselves. I cannot think of a better way to promote a reputation than that.
Executive Vice President and Senior Global Corporate Strategist
Senior Vice President
Chief Communications Strategist
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