Political Business

Lessons on political strategy

Posts tagged president

0 notes &

The keys to power

How to predict elections.

There’s the excellent data-route of Nate Silver, and there’s the gut-feel the formula concocted by Allan Lichtman, the academic behind The Keys to the White House.

In 1981 Lichtman developed 13 “Keys” or categories to measure the performance of the incumbent.

His assumption is that incumbents lose power, rather than oppositions winning. This gels with my observations that incumbents whittle away their own advantage over time. My theory goes a step further - I think it’s possible for political parties to succeed on all measures but still finally get replaced because voters just get tired.

Lichtman postulates that if the incumbent has failed in six or more of the 13 categories, it loses power.

It’s one thing to stipulate these categories, but another to judge performance under them. After all, politics is rarely about actual performance, and mostly about perceived performance.

Lichtman has proved himself quite good at assessing performance in the categories - picking every President correctly since he first outlined his 13 Keys.

I think these keys are relevant outside of the Presidential Race, and can be applied to political party governance internationally.

The Keys are:

  1. Party mandate: After the midterm elections, the incumbent party holds more seats in the U.S. House of Representatives than it did after the previous midterm elections. In an international context, this Key can be interpreted as having not lost by-elections, and local elections where relevant.
  2. Contest: There is no serious contest for the incumbent party nomination, or to the leader over the preceding term. 
  3. Incumbency: The incumbent party leader or candidate is the sitting President, or leader.
  4. Third Party: There is no significant third party challenge.
  5. Short term economy: The economy is not in recession during the election campaign.
  6. Long-term economy: Real per capita economic growth during the term equals or exceeds mean growth during the previous two terms. 
  7. Policy change: The incumbent party has brought about major changes in national policy. I’m not so sure on this one, although I am certain that lots of minor changes build up voter resentment.
  8. Social unrest: There is no sustained social unrest during the term. 
  9. Scandal: The incumbent administration is untainted by major scandal.
  10. Foreign/military failure: The incumbent administration suffers no major failure in foreign or military affairs.
  11. Foreign/military success: The incumbent administration achieves a major success in foreign or military affairs.
  12. Incumbent charisma: The incumbent party candidate is charismatic or a national hero. 
  13. Challenger charisma: The challenging party candidate is not charismatic or a national hero.

Filed under lichtman president Presidential Race obama romney 13 keys election how to win

2 notes &

Will the Presidential election affect markets?

The answer is; immediately, a little; but after a few months, none.

Apparently, US Markets have rallied after every mid-term election since 1942, then they resume their path.

There’s more evidence that stock markets change Governments. Obama benefited from a collapsed market in 2008 - which reflected and affected the turbulent economic period. This time, he may benefit from a benign market performance.

An article in Time takes a look at whether the ascendency of Obama or Romney to President would affect the financial markets. 

The conclusion from research is that the ascendency of anyone to President generates a small and momentary fillip in financial markets. 

The only time markets can fall is when a Republican president is replaced by a Democrat President.

The article says the real drivers of the market over the next few months will be;

  1. whether or not Congress comes up with a quick resolution to the fiscal cliff [and]
  2. the economic situation in the rest of the world.
There are claims that the Presidential cycle predicts stock markets, but research shows almost no correlation.
In fact, it appears it’s market performance that predicts Presidents, not the other way around.
InvestTech Research found that stock market performance during the two months before the election has been a predictor for 90% of the presidential elections since 1900. Of the 16 elections held when the stock market went up preceding the election, the incumbent was re-elected 15 times. Of the 12 elections during which the stock market fell preceding the election, the incumbent lost 10 times.

This is further evidence that politics affects very little, but reflects an awful lot.

Filed under Presidential Race stock market market economy president government prime minister leader

0 notes &

Obama vs Romney 1

At a deep subconscious level, Barack Obama did not think he should have to debate Mitt Romney. For reasons we, like he, can only guess at, Obama did not want to be there. These were the reasons why he comprehensively lost the debate.

My sense is that he felt he was too good for Romney. So all the rehearsals, prepared zingers, and rote-learned facts were worthless. Obama went into the practice and the real thing believing his opposition was not worthy to be there. Consequently Obama’s first debate against Romney was the worst political performance most people have ever seen from him.

Obama, like most pundits, got the shock of his life. Not just because of his poor performance, but because Romney was outstanding.

Obama’s nightmare started with his very first statement. A scripted personal touch predictably reaching out to his wife to note that it was their wedding anniversary. He seemed awkward and stilted saying it. Yet he has skillfully used the personal so many times.

Romney’s scripted start using examples of real American’s having it tough, was delivered perfectly. Yet, he had the confidence and presence of mind to start by congratulating Obama on the anniversary and apologising that it should be experienced with the debate.

This comfort and presence of mind was Romney’s signature for the rest of the debate. He was in charge of himself, in charge of the hapless aging moderator, Jim Lehrer, and mostly in charge of Obama. He kept his statements punchy, his cadence varied, and his gestures lively. But most of all, Romney was switched on - he was very there in the moment - and the man was straight out appealing (ignoring the politcal positioning).

The physical stance of debaters sends interesting signals. Romney was upright, independent of the lecturn. Obama lent on the lecturn, one leg bent and twisting, and rarely looked at Romney. He stared at the cameras, breaking through the fourth wall to the voters as he has done on his own so many times as President - but it wasn’t the time or place for that.

The next phase worked in Romney’s favour. During the campaign both candidates have appealed to their version of middle America. Romney kept to his script, referencing the economic troubles of middle America.

But he also broke from his campaigning script. It was here, right at the start of the debate, that he denied he would cut tax for the wealthy. The flat out denial, like others that followed, flummoxed Obama.

The irony of rehearsals is that your peers can find it hard to really pretend to be your opposition. (John Kerry played Romney in Obama’s rehearsals, and Rob Portman played Obama for Romney). It looked like Obama’s team never thought Romney would simply deny much of what he had previously advocated. Yet, before the campaign started that’s exactly what Romney did. He never stayed on any one policy for very long. If a position  became difficult, he just changed it (see here for a simple example, and see here for his policy details, and see here for the Romney aide who had to reverse a Romney claim during the debate about the healthcare plan).

In the middle of the debate, Romney came out with a doozy: he said that no economist could claim his policy would result in any particular outcome if Romney would promise that it would not.

Without a passionate reason to be there, Obama stuck to his notes, and to the detail. Too much detail. As he worked through his fact sheets his answers lengthened, wavered, wandered, paused, and wandered again.

The Romney we saw on the night didn’t worry about detail. He worried about how he performed: the type of person he projected. He was acting with sincerity, with confidence, with compassion. We believed he knew those people he described on struggle-street. He had a touch of the common when he said he’d raised boys, so knew what it was like to hear the sort of claims Obama peddled.

Obama referenced real people only twice. He referred to a teacher and the poor physical state of their classroom and resources. He didn’t say how he would fix it. It seemed like an example Romney would use.

And he, predictably again, referenced a struggling family member - a grandmother. I think he over-uses these personal accounts, but this one seemed to help him find himself a little bit. Still, the story dragged on, and the debate quickly moved on.

Obama had one more chance to get the debate swinging back his way. Lehrer wrestled control from Romeny and invited Obama to tear apart Romney’s health plan. Obama stared at Lehrer for a long moment and we were all waiting for the zinger - the put down. So was Obama. But it’s wasn’t there. He looked down at his notes. He found a fact, and begn to drone about details. The moment, and the debate was lost.

The role of moderator is tough. If you are too soft, the debate becomes a bun-fight between the candidates so the audience learn nothing. If you are too tough the candidates don’t get to voice their positions, and contest each other - so the audience learn nothing.

Lehrer says his job was not to get in the way, but the reality was that he was too soft. The debate did not get through its alotted subjects due to the candidates talking too much. The advantage was that the candidates battled it out. This worked to Romney’s advantage as he was on his game, and against Obama, who fluffed almost every one of the many long sentences he uttered. 

It was the final scene of the debate which will stay with me for a very long time. Romney’s family - his entourage - flooded onto the stage. They mobbed their man and surrounded Barack and Michelle, stifling them with good wishes. The Obama’s fled from the ring where he had been so completely trounced. They left the ring to the Romney’s who waved to the crowd triumphantly.

The lessons I draw from the debate are:

  1. When rehearsing, use someone who doesn’t mind giving you a hard time.
  2. The most important preparation is to find your passion - your reason for being there.
  3. Strategy is very important - the job is to appeal to the audience, not beat your opponent - so you need to accurately judge your angle, and worry less about contesting what you think your opponents angle might be.

See here for my blow by blow call of the debate as it unfolded.

See ABC’s blog for responses of other pundits, and a political fact check.

Filed under romney obama debate lehrer lessons debate tactics debate winner debating tactics Presidential Race president

0 notes &

Presidential musical

There’s a lovely tradition of US Presidential candidates singing on the hustings.

Why lovely? Because there’s nothing more natural, more humanising, and more optimistic, than singing. In professional era politics, singing seems just too risky, and yet, the imperfectly pitched hokeyness is damn near politically perfect.

Yet the whole thing has got, as usual, out of hand:

Romney started this campaign’s singing dual with a passion for mutilating America the Beautiful at his appearances.

Obama has a slightly better voice, so he’s replied with a couple of MOR renditions of his own.

The attack adverts of both sides have taken to mocking the opponent’s singing.

Then copyright violations prevented the use of the singing in adverts.

And now, some excellent crowd-sourced musical mashups have taken the candidates into songs I’m sure they don’t know the words for.

What I particularly like about the Obama mashups is how they highlight the clever tonality and cadence of Obama’s speeches and verbal presentations.

Filed under singing president romney obama sings campaigning

1 note &

How will Obama be judged?

Obama’s consistently calm dispassionate aura freaks out American voters used to hyperbole. It’s a style not seen in the US for many presidencies. The liberal anguish over his Presidency is strange because Obama has not become this sort of politician. He was just as calculating and deliberative in the campaign, and prior. He was a perfect vehicle for Americans to fill with their own version of hope. 

Maybe Obama would fare better in another Western country, like UK or New Zealand, where we like our politicians to hold back on the effusiveness.

Obama’s experience is a warning for modern politicians; it’s best to have voters find appeal in your passions and policies, rather than try to finely match theirs or allow them to define you.

Filed under obama passion president america usa style