If someone with a clue was running Romney's campaign

Sheesh. These guys are supposed to be the smartest people in the room, right?

It is now an accepted part of the new normal that we are a 50.1% / 49.9% nation when it comes to left and right, right? Well, we didn't start out that way. As few as 30 years ago, presidential elections were competitive, but not super close. Now, armed with vast computing power and the methods by which they can slice and dice data, the cognoscenti know which 6 or 7 states are in play. They then hone their message to speak only to the demographic of the specific 'undecided' voter. (How ANYONE could be undecided in this election still boggles my mind...)

It occurred to me today that we are in this razor-thin margin situation precisely because of the ads and the polling and the scientific manipulation, not the other way around. Like any scientific observation, sometimes the reason things are the way they are can actually be caused by the scientific observation, and not so much on the static environment. Let me explain.

Before the political scientists got hold of the electorate (and when people actually watched TV, read the paper and made their own decisions regarding politics), political races were mostly undetermined until the election. Results were posted on the broadcast networks as the results rolled in. Tallies were made based on results until someone was finally declared the winner.

I think the beginning of the new normal was when someone decided to color the states red or blue to indicate whether the state's Electoral College votes went for the Republican or the Democrat candidate. At some point, the term "red state/blue state" became a meme. Now we have a map with the Electoral College numbers on it by state and through polling we know which states are likely to end up red or blue with the few swing states being designated usually by yellow.

Because the campaign people are so smart, they focus all of their energies at the swing states, bombarding them with ads. The few people that are truly undecided are beaten mercilessly with inane messages like "Tell Mitt Romney to stop shipping jobs overseas" until they either decide on a candidate or decide to sit out and not vote at all.

This is how I think that we got in the pickle that we are now in. It is almost like the body politic has developed an immunity to the pathogen of campaigning, reaching a sort of stasis that can only be moved from center by a political "shock and awe" campaign. By focusing on tie-breaking states, we have virtually assured ourselves that we will have a tie.

So, now that we are in this condition (and it looks like Virginia will be one of the swing states this year), how will these wunderkinds come up with the next shock and awe campaign? You guessed it, the same old stuff over and over. Like listening to urban contemporary music from across the intersection at a stoplight, it just all sounds the same. "Mwah, mwah, mwah, mwah, mwah." Just like Charlie Brown's parents. No one listens to that crap except the pundits, who then repeat it ad nauseum on the news and commentary shows.

What is the answer? What would I do if I were given the task of getting Mitt Romney's message out and hopefully swing the election his way? In the words of Jim Carrey's character, Fire Marshal Bill, "Let me tell you something."

I would quietly start up a new campaign and get rid of those traditional ads, with the stuffy, stark stills, the big bold graphics and the female voice-over with the "Barack Obama did this" and "Barack Obama said that" followed by percentages and statistics. Blah, blah, blah. What a waste of valuable resources. C'mon people, lets create sustainable messages and get rid of waste.

The Asterisk campaign would show Mitt sitting in a chair as if in an interview with Katie Couric or Greta. He would be looking off-camera and he would start speaking mid-sentence with a bit of a soundbite for the gist of the ad. This would fade to a graphic and a voice-over would read the question. Something like "What does Capitalism mean to Mitt Romney?" Fade back to Mitt and he would speak in a conversational voice about how he views the subject. In each segment, he would also bring into play something from his past, like Bain, the Olympic Committee, his Governorship of Massachusetts, his health insurance initiatives, etc. that would tie in to the subject matter. Something like this, "...when I was Governor of Massachusetts we created a compulsory health insurance plan. It is legal for a state to do that and it was what the people wanted, but it hasn't worked out so well. I have learned a lot from that experience and I will use that knowledge to work hard to fix our broken health insurance system."

At the end, it would fade to a graphic with a voice-over reading "This is number four in a series of issues. Visit MittRomney.com/issues/4 for more information."

On the site page would be the question as the title of the page, the embedded video, a transcription of the 'interview' and more information on his position on the subject.

Another thing I would do is whenever the Obama campaign releases specious accusations against the Romney campaign, I would immediately (assuming it was a genuine issue to be responded to) create a similar ad that showed the candidate being 'interviewed' on his bus, on the plane, back stage at a campaign event, etc. that refuted the assertion head-on, fading to a graphic and a voice-over,  "This is number fifty eight in a series of responses and corrections. Visit MittRomney.com/responses/58 for more information."

If the accusation was true and it hit a nerve, man up and address that too, "...yes, it is true that 750 workers lost their jobs at that paper plant after my company bought their company, but that corporation was doomed to fail with complete and total bankruptcy if we had not done what we did. Out of 7,000 jobs corporate-wide, we saved 5,000." (I made up those numbers as an example.)

This would do several things. It would mix the ads up so that they aren't all the same drivel. The text graphic at the beginning would allow people fast forwarding through ads to be able to see the text long enough to stop  and watch if they are actually interested in the subject, and it would show him in a relaxed, authoritative environment instead of behind a podium speaking in that shrill, high-pitched, monotonic campaign voice.

Face it, folks. 99.99% of us will never see either candidate beyond getting stuck behind them in 10 miles of traffic as they head for an event. Few of us with jobs would have the time to sit in a rally to hear the candidate, anyway.

So, how are we supposed to connect with either of these two men when the only way we see them is behind a podium, lecturing us or when a commercial is harping on us, telling us what to think? Wow, those are pleasant experiences aren't they? What means more to us as a human being.... being preached to by someone, or being involved in a conversation with someone?

or this?
I think that we as citizens of the modern, circa-2012 world have too much information being thrown at us, constantly bombarding our brains, begging for a moment's attention and cognition. It has been proven that people, especially the young, are NOT immune from advertising and influence, but they ARE immune from crappy ads that do not meet a conscious or subconscious need. Those are just blocked out.

The first candidate that comes at it from the perspective of "I know your time is valuable, and I know that you know that 95% of what you hear from our campaigns is BS anyway, so here is what I think and why. I hope you agree or will consider my position. Thanks for listening." will probably get and retain the attention of undecideds, reach a deeper connection to those that agree, and at least gain the respect of his opponents for treating them like intelligent people.

In this respect, I am truly Hoping for Change.


Max P said…
Great article as usual but I see your experiment in brevity has come to an end :)

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