Friday, September 12, 2008

It Might Work, But...

It's a bit disheartening. I would prefer a way to get the focus of the campaign away from personalities (and suggestions that the candidates change theirs) and back on issues. Yet the author of this analyisis is probably correct, that to get back on top Obama should probably move away from the issues and focus on character.
In 1980, Richard Wirthlin - Ronald Reagan's chief strategist - made a fateful discovery. In his first poll he discovered that most people didn't like Reagan's positions on the issues, but nevertheless wanted to vote for Reagan. The reason, he figured out, is that voters vote for a president not primarily on the issues, but on five other "character" factors; values; authenticity; communication and connection; trust; and identity. In the Reagan-Carter and Reagan-Mondale debates, Mondale and Carter were ahead on the issues and lost the debates because the debates were not about the issues, but about those other five character factors. George W. Bush used the same observation in his two races. Gore and Kerry ran on the issues. Bush ran on those five factors.

In the 2008 nomination campaign, Hillary ran on the issues, while Obama ran on those five factors and won. McCain is now running a Reagan-Bush style character-based campaign on the Big Five factors. But Obama has switched to a campaign based "on the issues," like Hillary, Gore and Kerry. Obama has reality on his side. And the campaign is assuming that if you just tell people the truth, they will reason to the right conclusion. That's false and they should know better.
And even when we're speaking of character, we seem to be speaking of perceptions.

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