Category Archives: Campaigns

Choosing a VP

When Paul Ryan was named as the Vice-Presidential nominee by Republican Mitt Romney, I was asked about his impact on the Presidential race.  I said many times that the Ryan pick would finally energize the conservative base of the Republican Party who were skeptical of their nominee in Ryan.  Ryan’s youthful enthusiasm coupled with his wonkish policy appeal was just what the Romney campaign needed.  The bland Romney campaign searched for its voice throughout the primary season and through the early stages of the general campaign.  Ryan would be that shot in the arm.  For a short time, the Ryan pick did help pull even with President Barack Obama in the polls.  That momentum seems to have been lost in the last week, as recent reports from the Romney front have stated that Ryan has been muzzled by his Romney’s staffers.  Romney’s team wants Ryan to speak less on his “bread and butter” topic, the budget, and more on how badly Obama has run the country.  Conservative pundits and grassroots supporters wonder why this is so?  Without Ryan’s budget appeal, the Romney campaign was back to where it started, in search of a voice.

How much of a factor should a Vice Presidential pick be for a Presidential ticket? What criteria would you look for when choosing a VP nominee?

 

 

The Politics of Celebrity

At the Republican National Convention in 2012, it was Clint Eastwood who made a splash with his speech regarding President Obama.  At the Democratic National Convention in that same year, Kal Penn of Harold and Kumar fame, made a veiled reference to Eastwood’s speech and made overtures toward younger Americans to vote.  In 1964, actor Raymond Massey made a campaign commercial for Republican Barry Goldwater.  Actor E.G. Marshall filmed a spot for Hubert Humphrey in 1968.  Paul Newman campaigned for another Democrat in 1968, Eugene McCarthy.  Sammy Davis Jr. endorsed President Nixon.  Singer Pearl Bailey in 1976 for President Ford.    Even Tim Robbins and Susan Sarandon endorsed Ralph Nader in 2000.   The list of celebrities endorsing and campaigning for Presidents and presidential candidates is almost endless.  I once watched a PBS documentary entitled, “Vote For Me”, where the then head of the Oklahoma Democratic Party referred to politics as “show business for ugly people.”  He was alluding to the entertainment value of political campaigns and how the political process had become superficial over the years.  This documentary was filmed in the mid-1990s.

Today, it seems as if politics and entertainment industry have come together as one.  Entertainers of all political stripes are now engaged in the political process by adding their opinions to the issues, events, and candidates of the day through social media and traditional media outlets alike.  Has the separation between politics and entertainment become blurred over the years?  Do you believe that entertainers have any influence on the political process?

Who Paid For That Ad?

A common misperception from the 1988 Presidential campaign between George H.W. Bush and Michael Dukakis is that Bush team produced and ran ad that prominently featured Willie Horton.  The “Willie Horton ad” is it was to be called, featured a criminal (Horton) and how he was allowed out of prison on weekends by a Massachusetts Governor (Dukakis) in part to that state’s prison furlough program.  The ad mentions that while Horton was out on one weekend pass, he kidnapped, stabbed, and raped a woman and brutally beat that woman’s boyfriend.  The ad struck a nerve with the public, hurt the Dukakis campaign, and Dukakis never recovered.  Many who watched the ad would reference it as “Bush’s Willie Horton ad” when in fact the ad was created by the National Security PAC (Political Action Committee).  This PAC ran an ad, by federal law, independent of the Bush campaign.

How would the public know if the ad was paid for and produced by an outside or independent organization?  Sure, there was a disclaimer at the bottom of the “Horton” ad that disclosed the source.  The disclaimer was about the size of the type of disclaimers that you see in a car commercial.  A magnifying glass is a necessity for proper reading.  In the last twelve years, identifying a commercial’s source became a bit easier for the public.  With the passage of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act (BCRA) (2002), candidates at the federal level who run ads from their own campaign coffers must say, “I am so and so and I am approve this message.”  Most campaign commercials are run by outside organizations, so this BCRA requirement is not applicable.

What are your thoughts on the amount of ads that you have seen in the last few months?  Now that the elections are over, you perhaps can fully process what has been transmitted over the airwaves in this election season.

 

Should There Be Runoff Elections?

We typically use the phrase, “majority rules” when it comes to determining a winner in our elections.  However, many times, a winner can be decided by less than a majority vote.  Therefore, the proper phrase would be, “plurality rules”. In some states, getting a plurality is not enough.  As a result, a second election or a runoff election is used to determine a winner.  Eleven states have runoff elections, nine of them are in the South.  Proponents of a runoff election support the notion that a majority should be earned by a candidate who wishes to be a party’s nominee.  Opponents suggest that a runoff election is too costly to administer and that many who turned out to vote in the initial primary would not vote in a second election.  Thus, a candidate may receive a majority vote, but would do so from a smaller voting population.

Should more states institute provisions for runoff elections?  What are your thoughts on runoff elections?

Prospects for Victory

From the 1964 Ralph G. Martin book, Ballots and Bandwagons, a compilation of events from five political conventions in the early half of the twentieth century:

“Political Axiom Number One says that the brighter the presidential prospect of victory, the greater the crop of available candidates.”

It is a pretty simple rule, but can such a rule be applied not only the Presidency, but to a House, Senate, or Gubernatorial race?  Do you agree with such an axiom?

Looking Ahead to 2016

It’s not even the end of 2012 and names are already being thrown about for the 2016 Presidential contest.  President Barack Obama is term-limited, so that leaves the Democratic nomination wide open.  Governor Mitt Romney will more than likely not be running for the Republican nomination in 2016.  Since neither 2012 candidate is eligible nor likely to run, both political parties will have their work cut out for them in deciding who their Presidential nominees will be.  Voters, of course, will be the ultimate deciding factor in choosing the party nominees.  On the Democratic side, Vice President Joe Biden, newly elected US Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton are most frequently mentioned.  Outgoing Montana Governor Brian Schweitzer and current Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper are also discussed as possible candidates for President.  The Republican side, after two straight Presidential defeats, also has a strong list of possible candidates.  Among them are former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, US Senator Marco Rubio of Florida, and Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey.  Rick Santorum, Mitt Romney’s chief conservative opponent in 2012, has also made overtures about running for President in 2016.  Former US Senator Scott Brown, who lost to Elizabeth Warren in his re-election bid this November, is also seen as a dark horse candidate for the White House.  What should we be watching out for when trying to determine who will run for President in 2016?  Pay attention to those who visit Iowa and New Hampshire in 2013.  Those two states conduct the first caucuses and primaries respectively.  Historically, Iowa and New Hampshire help narrow the field of candidates from the serious and not-so-serious.  Since they are first, it is understandable as to why those with Presidential aspirations visit them.  With that in mind, who do you think will run for President in 2016?

What Do We Do Now?

The Candidate (1972) embodies what it is like for an unknown to compete against an entrenched incumbent for the United States Senate.  The film, which starred Robert Redford, Melvyn Douglas, and Peter Boyle, was written by Jeremy Larner, who was the head speechwriter for Eugene McCarthy in his 1968 bid for President.  Shot in a pseudo-documentary style which is common place in many television shows and movies today, The Candidate provides serious and comic moments in how a campaign works.  This is done all through the lens of someone who once worked for a Presidential campaign.  The Candidate is a compelling piece of cinema from the early 1970s.  Perhaps that even with the film’s star power and sobering screenplay, it is the film’s final scene that demonstrates the disconnect between campaign for office and the reality of actually holding office.

After this year’s November election, what do we do now?  Something to think about and answer:  What should those candidates who win/won on Tuesday, November 6 at the national level (President, Senate, House) confront as their first priority in the new year?