Free-Floating Hostility

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Ultimate Vindication of the Process Story

Since everyone reads everything online now, you've probably seen this long NYT Magazine piece about the message confusion within the McCain Campaign. Given what I'm doing between 9 and 5 these days, I found it completely fascinating. I think it's actually a nice illustration of way insidery campaign stuff affects the impressions people get.

The what-if question I walked away from the article with was this, What if these guys had actually picked something and stuck with it? How different would the election be? Maybe McCain would still be in trouble. But I bet we wouldn't be talking about an erratic campaign that was sort of flailing around trying to figure things out. In the October 2004 Times story about the Bush campaign, Karl Rove said this: "We're an empire now, and when we act we create our own reality." This is the idea that just by saying something over and over again, you can make it true. But that's only the case sometimes.

You can say whatever you want, and the people that agree with you will agree with what you have said. It worked for Bush in 2004 because of the GOP turnout machine and his unquestioned strength with evangelicals. But when you're not talking to partisans, there has to be something in the message that jibes with pre-existing information for a message take hold. The 2004 electoral environment didn't exist anymore, but the McCain campaign continued to act as though it did. When you're trying to appeal to independents, you can't keep changing tactic every couple of weeks.

After spending six weeks successfully chipping away at Obama for not being "Ready to Lead," picking Sarah Palin as your Vice Presidential nominee creates cognitive dissonance for people not already in the tank for you or her. Then being unable to figure out what to do about the financial crisis reinforces that idea. Suddenly, you're a 26-year Washington veteran running against a guy who has been on the national stage for exactly just over four years, and he's the one people trust to lead.

0 Comment(s):

Post a Comment