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Infographical evidence of the way social media has turned in modern vox populi. There was an enormous amount of social media activity on the day of the US Election.
But note that the amount of social media activity on the election night had NOTHING to do with the actual voting pattern. We only need one poll to give an insight into that: the actual election.
Which is why the Facebook “vote counter” was stupid. Whether people did or didn’t set their status to voting is irrelevant. It neither measures nor contributes to the election.

Infographical evidence of the way social media has turned in modern vox populi. There was an enormous amount of social media activity on the day of the US Election.

But note that the amount of social media activity on the election night had NOTHING to do with the actual voting pattern. We only need one poll to give an insight into that: the actual election.

Which is why the Facebook “vote counter” was stupid. Whether people did or didn’t set their status to voting is irrelevant. It neither measures nor contributes to the election.

Filed under social media obama romney Presidential Race election

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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

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Three ways the US Election changed social media

My analysis of the effects of the US Election on social media was published by Social Media Today.

In short:

1) Using social media for fund raising monetised the format, and using the money for mainstream (and digital banner) advertising, relegated social media to being simply being another marketing channel.

2) The nation turned to social media to see what voters were saying about the election - it was validated at the vox populi. But simultaneously, a lot of content online was a kind of talk radio triviality (think ‘big bird’), and thus relegated social media to ‘light entertainment’.

3) The unification of many users around the Obama message provided a commonality to the online expression which defied the factional individualism that has arisen, and been championed, through the channel. At the same time, the strong use of the medium by right wing ideologues has empowered individuals as de facto affiliates of the Republican party - decentralising membership and control.

Filed under social media Presidential Race election usa obama romney

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Why Obama got a second chance

The US Presidential election was a lesson in targeting your audience.

Obama won because he was smart and concentrated on winning what and who he needed. Romney lost because he had to win over a majority of the nation. It’s a lesson in politics and public relations - identify who you need to win over and go talk to them.

Why did voters choose Obama?

Half the voters didn’t choose Obama, and many did not vote at all (a turn-out of under 60%). Both his popular vote and electoral college vote was down on 2008. He had only 1-2% more of the popular vote. Those who chose to stick with Obama did so because they wanted to believe his narrative about creating a new type of America - the type where a Black man can become President.

Why did they not choose Romney?

They did - half the voters. There will be recriminations about Romney being too moderate. But moderateness got him, and kept him, in the race. The problem was that Romney was divided by the Republican Party itself - which set him up with a divisive selection, then undermined him with hate and hyperbole. The campaign was clumsy initially, as Romney tried to be what he was not (like a global statesman). It got on track when Romney was free to be himself. Since he was only 1-2% short on the popular vote, Romney might regret his tactical approach to winning over the swing states.

The divided nation

An evenly divided nation provides a battleground for gaming the political system. In 2008 Obama took the high road, asking disillusioned middle class (and white) voters to believe his story of hope. In 2012 the story had lost its magic. So rather than win back these swinging voters, he concentrated on getting out the left-leaning vote in States where he needed the electorate college votes. For example, the traditional swing state of Ohio was visited 90 times in the campaign.

It’s not that Romney didn’t look to those pivot States, but he also had to introduce himself across the whole nation - and to Black and Hispanic voters in particular. He had to introduce the idea of himself as a President. That is why he mellowed his rhetoric and restyled his demeanor to appear more inclusive and understanding.

The rest

At time of writing, control of the Senate looks like going to the Democrats, while the Republicans look like holding the Congress.

Republican control of the lower House means Obama’s ability to work and initiate new plans are as limited as they were in his first term.

Going negative

A distinguishing feature of this campaign was the large amount of criticism of opponents. There were 1 million advertisements run during the campaign - 40% more than 2008. By May this year the adverts run by the candidates were already 70% negative. 

It would have been clear early to both camps that running on policy positions was not going to help them. Obama did not have much in the way of gains over his term, and the recession narrowed his options. Romney did not have much in the way of plans, and he faced an incumbent that had promised and not delivered. So the obvious answer for both of them was to make voters dislike their competitor. 

Voters are said to hate negative campaigning, but strategists know that negative works - in the right circumstances. The role of SuperPacs in this campaign increased the amount of  the attack-politics. 86% of adverts run by these groups of separately funded candidate’s supporter groups were negative.

The still divided nation

The US has become intensely divided along left-right lines in the past twenty years. Going back over elections through the 1900s the country easily swung in uniformly behind the “best” Presidential candidate. Review for yourself at the cool 270towin. Some have claimed this is a response to complicated issues, but this doesn’t stand up. You can’t get more high stakes, contentious and difficult than depression, war, cold war, and energy crises. I think, from afar, the USA’s even and intense split is due to having fewer significant issues, while experiencing a cultural crisis in nationhood. There have been fewer things to really worry about in the prosperous nation, so the emphasis has gone into differences in cultural and lifestyle preferences. These differences were previously tolerated. They no longer are; it’s currently a contest of cultural outlooks.

More of the same from here

We should not expect too much from Obama; the recession is set to continue for the better part of his term, Congress is held by the Republicans, and Obama doesn’t have any significant plans.

This won’t trouble voters for a little while. More of the same is what half of American voters chose today.

Filed under Presidential Race obama win election romney second chance election day election result

1 note &

Obama to win

My pick for winner of the 2012 US Presidential Election is Barack Obama: an incumbent who did just enough during a lacklustre term, and had no screw ups - compared to the unknown (literally) of what Romney, the challenger, proposes.

Republicans to dominate (just) the House and Congress.

Nothing unusual to happen in the 13 Governor roles.

Filed under Presidential Race obama romney

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Can a politician be too popular?

What’s most important in a politician: seriousness or knowing pop songs?

This lovely piece of on-ground reporting from the 2012 Presidential race got me thinking about what voters value most in a politician.

Republican voters at a rally worried that people would vote for Obama because he was “hip, cool, and sympathetic.” They wondered out loud whether they were electing a President or “someone to know the top hip hop songs”.

It’s a fair question. The reality is that voters appear to want both: they want someone who can govern with the gravitas and smarts required of a serious job, but who is simultaneously aware of ordinary things.

Voters want politicians to be like them, but much better versions.

This is why populist politicians fail (they’re too much like us) and why serious politicians fail (they’re not enough like us). The strategic magic of politics in carried out between those extremes.

This also explains why too much popularity can be a bad thing. New Zealand Prime Minister John Key spent his first term on a prolonged honeymoon with voters. His affable, easy-going, style was a hit. He could be your neighbour. A comparison video on the respective “blokiness” of Key and his 2011 Opposite, Phil Goff, made the point. Key was the guy you’d want at your BBQ. He wouldn’t talk politics and be right-on and on-message all the time.

John Key has become too conscious of his success.  His recent description of himself as someone who makes jokes and “entertains” many people each week, was unsettling to see stated out loud. He now prefers and seeks out these sorts of informal and non-political interactions with the public. Self-belief may have led to recent injudicious comments denigrating Beckham as “thick as batshit” and another describing a radio host’s red jersey as “gay”.

Flippancy is acceptable in the context of informal light-hearted engagement. But John Key is crossing the line so far into populism that he’s at risk of losing the gravitas we want even of our most popular politicians.

Filed under john key obama romney populism beckham Phil Goff

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Obama vs Romney 3

Political debates are not so much about winning, but about personal bests. The PB in campaign debates is to attract the voters you’re aiming at.

So the third Presidential debate was a platform for late campaign objectives, and Obama gained more.

Romney’s strategy in this debate seemed to be to cement the voters he had already won. Obama, who was morally behind, and around even in the polls, needed to reach out to his disaffected previous voters, and any other undecideds. 

The Obama camp appeared to have sought to woo voters who wanted considered foreign policy, and who were female. His criticisms of Romney were designed to prevent Romney from appearing like a reliable commander-in-chief. The wording of his foreign policy aims were designed to appeal to humanitarian interests rather than power plays.

The Romney camp appeared to have intended Romney to appear the equal of Obama on foreign policy, and to drag the debate back to Obama’s weakness - the economy.  Romney had virtually no policy detail so he emphasised his policy principles - and these were couched more in the language of people already voting Republican. Romney was allowed by the moderator to drag the economy into the debate, and succeeded in repeating lines already well-worn on the campaign trail.

So Obama had the most fortune in addressing the voters he still needs to secure: the undecided female, or moderate, voter.

At times, Obama was still fighting the first debate. The time for undermining Romney’s reliability on policy positions was back then. Revisiting that ground came across as testy and annoyed - fine two debates ago, but off point now.

That played into Romney’s hands. He clearly wanted a draw on foreign policy, so he didn’t much disagree with Obama. He had his retort ready for when Obama criticised him for “being wrong” on every foreign issue over which he voiced an opinion: “attacking me is not an agenda”.

The trouble was, Romney did not have policy differences to explain instead. So a pile of Obama “zingers” struck home. For example, Romney appeared silly to be counting the numbers of ships when technology has changed away from “horses and bayonets” (not as much as Obama inferred, but it’s the impression that counts).

Obama was presenting foreign issues as complex and dangerous - so requiring forethought and carefulness. Romney’s repeated reference to “killing the bad guys” was an awkward simplification that walked into the juxtaposition Obama was setting up.

Strangely, Romney did not get stuck into Obama over a range of weaknesses: Guantanamo Bay, Libya… probably because he couldn’t trust himself to do well. Obama is supremely briefed on these topics.

Instead, Romney deliberately tried to steer the debate back to the economy. It’s the number one issue for the public. Only 2% of Americans consider foreign policy an important campaign issue.

It was disappointing that the moderator, Bob Schieffer, let both candidates drift so far off topic. To his credit, it was because he let the two men actually debate - which allowed at least a couple of exchanges to develop into feisty retorts.

An interesting tactical aspect of Romney’s debate was that his answers would anticipate each new moderator’s question. So for example, he shifted off Syria and spoke about his foreign policy ‘principles’ just before the question about principles was asked. This happened multiple times. It meant he shortened the amount he had to speak about topics on which he had little to say. It led to repetition - but in politics that is no great disadvantage.

Repetition is not a problem Obama’s has, but lengthy answers are his weakness. His rhetorical style is stilted, with sentences of varying length, and pauses in many places. When operating off script, this style is troublesome. It means the ideas don’t flow logically, or built up to king hits. Compared with Romney’s natural ease and smooth flow, Obama sounds lost and disjointed. As Obama was performing on the night to appear considered and thoughtful about complex issues, it was less of a negative than in the other debates. 

I liked the way Obama found places, in a debate about foreign affairs, to mention ordinary Americans. He made two mentions about specific individuals for whom foreign policy decisions had an impact.

Romney wasn’t going to visit any new territory. He wanted to cement the his gains from his first superb debate. The problem with that approach is that it hands the advantage to the guy with more to lose. In the first debate, that was Romney. In this debate, it was Obama.

I gave the debate win to Obama because he had more detail, and used it to make better points. His theme, of a careful approach to complex matters, contrasted with Romney’s attempt to simplify matters. Obama won the political platform by appealing to the voters he needed, while Romney only appealed to the voters he already had.

Filed under romney obama third debate presidential debate Presidential Race debate tactics debate winner debating tactics Bob Schieffer horses and bayonets