Prime Minister Trudeau? Possibly.

Welcome back;
After a lengthy focus on the American Presidential race, it's time to turn one's attention to what's happening in the Great White North®. The federal Liberal leadership race is well underway with something like 8 candidates seeking the golden, silver bronze prize. Let's take a look at the likely scenario of front-runner Justin Trudeau taking the mantle on April 6th, 2013 - the 45th anniversary of his father Pierre becoming Liberal leader - and automatically - the next Prime Minister of Canada.
Much has been made about Justin's lack of policy depth - and much of it is true. However, as can be seen from this latest op-ed, he is staking out a policy framework for himself, and thus the Liberal party in the future.
Five Factors Favouring Trudeau as PM
1. The 'time for a change' syndrome will favour him. A general election won't be held until 2015. By that time the Harper government will have been in power for almost a decade. In politics, friends  come and go, but enemies accumulate. By then, there will inevitably be a stronger 'wind of change' blowing through the landscape. It's hard to imagine a majority government, but a minority Parliament may well emerge.
2. He is from Quebec. A Liberal party must always have a strong base in Quebec if it hopes to emerge victorious. It will mostly be the Liberals vs. the NDP in Quebec - barring a miraculous recovery of the already-dead-but-not-quite-buried Bloc Quebecois (who are in a position to benefit from their kissin' cousins, the Parti Quebecois, who can manipulate masterfully every slight and 'humiliation' that will come its way.) A Trudeau-led Liberal party, however, has to find its footing on a very slippery mountain, and his late father's federalist brand had become almost toxic in many parts of the province in the intervening decades. So the jury is really out on this indicator.
3. A Generational Shift of voters is underway. As we saw in the Presidential election, Justin Trudeau will present a younger profile, a charismatic personality and a sophistication with new media that could attract a younger generation, who have under-voted for decades. So far he has staked out the marijuana de-criminalization plank in his platform, but he needs to develop a platform that can appeal to the 18-35 year old crowd. Even if he does so, he would need to motivate them to vote - which has been notoriously unsuccessful in the past.
4. Communications skills. Although he has enormous energy and a camera-friendly face, his communications skills need work. He has been known to blurt out comments, adopt an angry hectoring tone - in which he refers to himself in the third person - and is not always comfortable in handling tough questions. However, most of those skills are learned, but now that he is in the fishbowl every mistake will be Tweeted and Face-booked, so he will have to watch everything he says.
As with his father, he also has a gift for pulling off stunts - the most memorable being his successful boxing match with Sen. Patrick Brazeau. In that one, he demonstrated the strategic ability of under-performing and over-delivering (always useful in political life) as he beat the much tougher and stronger Brazeau.
5. Avoid getting boxed in. Picking up the boxing metaphor, trying to carve out a middle ground between the NDP's very capable, left-centre Tom Mulcair and the strongly confident, centre-right ground held by Stephen Harper is a narrow channel to navigate.
He has to hope that he can carve a path that will distinguish itself from the other two parties - all while avoiding their punches and hay-makers aimed at the Liberal party's mixed legacy which will still be remembered by many voters.
So, what does the 2015 election look like? It's such a long way away that it's impossible to predict. However, Mr. Trudeau is not to be written off by either the NDP or the Conservatives as he seems to be comfortable in the under-dog position. The key will be the state of the economy and the ability of the Conservative government to communicate its messages effectively, and if the NDP can sustain its current support level. Who knows?
Where were you 49 years ago?
Nov. 22, 1963 Dallas Texas. As those of us old enough to remember know, it was the day that John F. Kennedy was assassinated while driving in a motorcade. This video clip gives an excellent sense of what it was like to be watching television...going from the inane daytime show to the truly insane. The man the reporter interviewed within minutes of the assassination turned out to be one of the most famous amateur film-makers in history - the one and only Abraham Zapruder. Conspiracy buffs will always be convinced that Lee Harvey Oswald didn't act alone. I have never been persuaded of that, but our world has never been the same since. Even though JFK was a terribly flawed individual in his personal life, his public legacy has survived these nearly five decades.
By the way, for those who want to see a great film of the first assassinated President, I would highly recommend 'Lincoln'. Spielberg did an excellent job of painting an all-too-human picture of an ordinary man who became a truly heroic President.
To all of our American friends, have a Happy Thanksgiving and travel safely. Until next time...


Updated: Did the General Betray Us?

Welcome back!
As some of you didn't receive part of the blog post in yesterday's email, I am resending this blog post with an update based on President Obama's news conference today. In my post I had recommended that "the White House  clear the air on this sooner not later." That is what the President attempted to do today. See my UPDATE below.

Did the General Betray Us? 
By now, we have all been inundated by the totally-expected media bombardment over the rapidly unfolding soap opera involving the much-respected General David Petraeus, the disciplined army leader and CIA Director. The General is a genuine star in Washington and around the world. Laura and I were at a French Embassy dinner party in Washington last June and it was hard not to notice that Gen. Petraeus was the focus of a lot of buzz and attention.
It is almost Shakespearean in its tragedy - namely to Petraeus and his family. Did he have to resign?  No serious commentator in the media is saying that he shouldn't have stepped down, nor is any Democrat or Republican official for that matter. The General himself was smart enough to know that his moral leadership had evaporated, that he had made himself - and by extension the CIA - vulnerable to compromise; that the trust in his word had been seriously undermined, and that the media distraction would get in the way of his continued leadership. So he did the right thing.
Crisis Communications Strategy Missing in Action
The issue that the media have now turned to is, 'why was the President not alerted to the FBI report on Patraeus earlier and was it kept back because of the election?' That will take some time to get to the bottom of, but it's important that the White House clear the air on this sooner not later. To this point, it's obvious that the Administration has not crafted a strong crisis communications strategy (which may underscore the fact that the President was caught off-guard on the day after the election.) With the scandal spreading to include Petraeus' successor, Gen. David Allen, and with Congress about to hold more hearings this week on the Benghazi terrorist attack, it already threatens to become a larger scandal.

A Field Day for Cable News, Talk Radio and....the Punditocracy
In the meantime it's a full-court press by the media. Ratings are guaranteed to rise on the cable talk shows and the talking head consultants have barely caught their breath since the election. Retainership extensions all around!
Side note: Any bets that the 'other woman', Paula Broadwell, will be signing a multi-million dollar book deal one day? Duh! Of course! For when the worlds of politics, sex and intrigue collide, money and celebrity are never far behind.

UPDATE Nov. 14, 2012: The President Responds
As I said in yesterday's blog post, the President has finally taken hold of the unfolding 'scandal' surrounding the Petraeus affair, and held a news conference taking all questions on the issue of potential breach of security. Note the careful wording to the key question asked about it:
"PRESIDENT OBAMA: And I’m going to start off with Ben Feller of AP.
Q: Thank you, Mr. President. Can you assure the American people that there have been no breaches of national security or classified information in the scandal involving Generals Petraeus and Allen? And do you think that you, as commander in chief, and the American people should have been told that the CIA chief was under investigation before the election?
PRESIDENT OBAMA: Well, I have no evidence at this point, from what I’ve seen, that classified information was disclosed that in any way would have had a negative impact on our national security. Obviously, there’s an ongoing investigation. I don’t want to comment on the specifics of the investigation. The FBI has its own protocols in terms of how they proceed. And you know, I’m going to let Director Mueller and others examine those protocols and make some statements to the public generally."
Critique: The President was at ease and handled the messaging and questions adroitly on the Petraeus affair. In this, his first news conference since June, Mr. Obama bundled the 'scandal' issue with the profoundly important impending 'fiscal cliff' issue. In this way, he naturally put into context the far more 'salacious' water cooler issue of Gen. Petraeus. Congressional leaders have made it clear that they aren't finished with the issue, so the Administration will have to be clear and consistent as it works its way through the political and media gauntlets. 
 video of the news conference Forward 5:10 into it to see the above quote.
Now to the Election...
Why did Romney lose?
I was reviewing what I had posted six months ago about what it would take to win, so let's use that as our guide:
1. A clear narrative that connects with the swing voter. Mitt Romney failed to connect. His Republican primary opponents damaged him as a 'flip-flop'.The Obama team succeeded in defining him as an out-of-touch plutocrat whose business background would hurt them not help them. Although Romney fought gamely back - particularly in the debates, he couldn't entirely shake off that damaging narrative. By the time Obama pulled even with Romney on the question of, "who is better able to handle economic issues?" Romney didn't have the edge on what should have been his strong suit. He was the candidate of Wall Street, not Main Street - where the votes are.
2. A believable economic plan to grow the economy, put people back to work and restore American pride. Although the Obama campaign began mostly  defending the first four years, nevertheless the President hammered away at how his plan would help the middle class by taxing the rich and investing in people. Over the course of the campaign, his message track gradually emerged by keeping it simple and supporting it with visuals, earned media and online presence. Romney had five parts to his economic plan, but their high-level focus weren't tangible enough for voters that wanted clear answers as to how it would help themselves and their families. 

3. A coherent strategy - in which the earned media (news and social media coverage) matches the paid media (advertising). Obama definitely won this. The ultimate 'off-strategy' phase of the campaign was the release of the "47%" video that burned up way too much Romney campaign time. When it first came out, Gov. Romney came out to address it, but didn't apologize or take it back until near the end of the campaign. He turned a 24 hour 'bump in the road' into a full-fledged mountain to overcome.
4. A strong media campaign - including earned media, social media and advertising.  Gov. Rommey's paid media, however, wasn't as effectively used. The ads didn't have the power of emotion, nor did they bring out the human side of Romney. Obama won on social media - utilizing the funds very effectively in targeting, motivating and engaging potential and 'soft supporters' as well as their volunteer army.
5. Focus on the 'battleground' swing states. Although both campaigned heavily in the swing states, the results tell it all. This is how Presidents get elected: 
(270 TO WIN)


6. Massive fund raising. Both campaigns did very well, and Romney did exceptionally well in that department. however, the huge sums of money and where they came from had a political cost associated with it.
7. Develop momentum. Romney brought himself to the brink of victory leading up to the final week with strong momentum emerging from the first debate. However, Hurricane Sandy took him out of the headlines for  a critical three days the week before the election, while earned media focused on the President looking like a strong, compassionate leader - with Gov. Christie along to provide the Greek chorus. 
And so.....
With the strong surge in votes by Latino voters (Romney's "Self-deportation" strategy on immigration was a huge negative vote driver) and single women (helped by the 'rape' comments of GOP Senate candidates Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock) they created the voter gaps that could not be overcome by Romney's campaign. Anyway, it was often an exercise in endurance for the voters - given the length of the campaign, the nastiness of the tone, and the saturation coverage of the media. But, already they are talking about 2016! Give us a break!

Let's keep the survivors of Hurricane Sandy in our thoughts, prayers and donations as they struggle to put their lives back together.
Note: I am resending this blog as some did not receive the top half, so I took the opportunity to update the post with the President's news conference. Everything else stays the same.
Until next time.....


Was Sandy A Democrat?

Welcome back...
The old saying that 'a week in politics is a lifetime' has never been more true. Last week at this time, Mitt Romney was riding a continuing wave of momentum emerging from his debate performances and he had drawn virtually even with President Obama. Although after the nightmare of Tropical Storm Sandy, one has to wonder, was Sandy a Democrat? From the look of it, it sure seemed so!
The Media Coverage of 'Superstorm Sandy'
Although Sandy wreaked even greater devastation than the worst forecasts had predicted, it turned out to be a 'gift' to the television news and cable TV networks - notably CNN which - in full OJ Simpson coverage  mode- dined out on every morsel of the catastrophe unfolding in New York City, the Jersey Shore and throughout hundreds of miles of devastation.
Michael Moore takes on CNN's coverage
I got a kick out of Michael Moore who was a guest on Piers Morgan Tonight. Instead of joining in on a sure-to-be fawning interview by Piers, Moore couldn't resist poking fun at CNN's milking of the storm water damage.  He zeroed in on the totally credible business reporter Ali Velshi standing for hours in waders 'reporting' live while fires in Queens remained unmentioned. The producers were fast enough to plug Ali directly into the show so that he could, good-naturedly, defend his honor. All ended with a chuckle, but you could tell Piers wasn't pleased. Here's a clip from that here.
Impressions of Obama
The President had looked particularly negative and somewhat churlish in the first debate. Where had the aura of 2008 gone?  That was the question that many were asking - until this week, when
Obama visits FEMA
'Superstorm Sandy' (as dubbed by CNN) roared up the East Coast. The President - following a marathon 48 hour campaign blitz across the country - landed back in Washington, put his campaign on hold and took on the mantle of Commander-in-Chief, visiting the Red Cross and FEMA headquarters.

Gov. Christie Goes Bipartisan
 Then, with a political gift that he never could have imagined a week ago, the President flew down to New Jersey where he joined his new-found friend, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie as he toured the devastation in his state. During that critical 72 hour period, the President played the role that Americans expect of a President - non-partisan, statesmanlike and compassionate.

The President Comforts a Victim
 This photo of the President providing comfort to a storm survivor hit the front page of every newspaper throughout the United States, including, of course, the swing states. His empathy seemed real - almost (Bill) Clintonian - in the natural way he expressed himself. When you consider that 537 votes separated Bush from Gore in Florida in the 2000 race, those Presidential images have the potential to be a game changer.

Romney Accepts Storm Donations
Impressions of Romney
Romney had to tread a very fine line - not being partisan, while continuing to campaign in swing states. He made the best of it - first of all by cancelling rallies in New Hampshire or any other state hit by Sandy. The next thing he did was to invite people coming to his rallies to bring non-perishable food or donate to the Red Cross. Whenever he spoke it was with a mostly bi-partisan script - talking about "reaching across the aisle" and working with "good Democrats and good Republicans" elected to Congress. That, of course, completed his transformation from a hard right conservative to 'moderate Mitt' that emerged in the debates. Even then, he had to fend off media coverage of his previous comments regarding the role of FEMA in emergencies. That was unwanted, awkward coverage for sure.
Did Romney make any errors? No. Did he gain ground? No. 
Did Sandy hurt Romney's campaign? Yes. 
On the evidence, you would have to conclude, there was indeed mild negative impact on Romney's campaign. Enough to possibly make a difference.                                        
                                                         Sandy's Political Impact
Bloomberg Endorses Obama
Not only did Gov. Christie heap praise on Obama for his handling of Sandy, but New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg came out and declared his support for Obama because, he said, of his belief that storms like Sandy are a result of climate change. The appropriateness of the Mayor weighing in on the Presidential race - while thousands of New Yorkers were without electricity, their homes devastated and their lives turned upside down - is a legitimate question, of course.  
So what does this mean for Election Day?
Although I have avoided the 'mug's game' of predicting a winner, I will say this: Obama has several 'swing state' avenues to the Electoral College victory. For Romney, it looks like he is limited to one path - winning Ohio and that is too close to call.  Sandy played to Obama's strengths; turned the independent Mayor Bloomberg into a Democratic supporter and made the Republican Convention keynote- speaking New Jersey Governor a declared fan of the President. If Obama wins re-election - this may become known as the most incredible week in modern Presidential elections.
All that's missing now are - dare we say it? - 'hanging chads' in Florida. Nah!!! Couldn't happen!!!!

So with  four days to go - only half a lifetime in politics -  much can still happen.
Laura and I will be glued to the networks all Tuesday night. Maybe we'll see you on twitter.com/mclomedia and twitter.com/LauraPeck6 where we will be live tweeting the results.
Until next time....


12 Days to Go - What Will it Take to Win?

Welcome back!
It's been a hectic few weeks since our last posting. Trips to New York City (twice), Toronto (once) interspersed with a barrage of media interviews - most of them on the Presidential race - have kept Laura and me hopping. On one day, I found myself doing 11 radio interviews on CBC's drive-time shows across the country crammed into a three hour period. The subject was 'Presidential debate language' and how it shapes elections. [move ahead to 1:00 hour in on this CBC Vancouver interview example.] Oh yeah...did I mention our media and presentation skills seminars? A few of them sprinkled in between.
Twelve Days to Go....a Nail Biter
Well with twelve days to go, what do you think will happen? Are you getting exhausted by all the analysts and commentators (excluding me, of course. Well, maybe not.
 my analysis of the third and final debate [click on Oct. 23, 8:00 minutes in] can be summed up as follows: Obama won on tactics - aggressively putting Romney onto the defense; deflecting criticisms of his Administration's foreign policy record etc. However, Romney's strategy seemed clear: to prove he knew something about foreign policy and to inoculate himself against attacks that he would adopt the interventionist Bush agenda on foreign policy. He clearly accomplished that strategy. In fact, he used the word 'peace' so often, he seemed to be morphing the late George McGovern at times! Barack Obama often found himself saying, "I'm glad Governor Romney agrees with me!" That was probably not a good idea. He made choosing Romney a safe option. Ouch!
So what does this portend for election day? Well, as we have been saying relentlessly here, it boils down to the swing states - Ohio, Virginia, Iowa, Florida, Colorado in particular. Could it be that we may not know for a few days after election day? Let's hope not. The public can do without the agony of the 2000 election and the intervention of the Supreme Court deciding on some 'hanging chads'. Nevertheless, it will be knife-edge sharp.
How did this razor-thin election race come about?
There are several reasons for this, but there is no question that the impact of the first debate was huge. After nearly a billion dollars of Obama campaign ads de-legitimizing Mitt Romney's record - at Bain Capital, as governor, his penchant for flip-flopping etc., the viewers were quite shocked to see that the Romney on their screen was not the Romney they were led to believe. That impression was not fundamentally altered in the second and third debate, which President Obama won on points, by most accounts. Romney could have driven it home in the third debate, but held back - avoiding tagging Obama on Benghazi; in effect, "me too" on many of the Obama Administration's foreign policies etc. So the momentum was slowed down and may well have shifted back to the Obama campaign.
Momentum is everything
What is golden in any campaign (besides money)? Faithful followers of this blog know....it's momentum! So every effort is being made by the Obama team to stop the Romney momentum, while Romney is doing everything he can to keep it going. As of now, it's neck-and-neck and it will be a late-night nail-biter to say the least.
12 Days to Go - What will it take to win?
1. Romney must build on his momentum by keeping his focus on the economy.
2. Romney needs to avoid getting nasty and personal. His supporters and third party advocates have used provocatively nasty words and accusations against Obama - as of course the Obama team has done in reverse. [The latest 'shocking' allegation by Donald Trump questioning his 'foreign' status in his university and passport applications by offering to donate $5 million to Obama's charity of choice if he would release the documents.] As expected, it was instantly rebuffed by the Obama team. Romney has to steer clear of that issue, as he has done in the past. The moveable voter is not partisan and he must sound Presidential - someone who can break the deadlock in Congress and move the country forward.
3. Obama must manage his tone. Recently, President Obama looks like he has recovered from his 'absence' in the first Denver debate and he must continue to sound Presidential. If he veers into a sarcastic, off-putting tone that he fell into in the third debate, he will turn off the voters he needs to reach. He also has to be careful of letting his guard down on the late-night shows, such as recently on Jon Stewart's Daily Show when he used the phrase 'not optimal' to describe the loss of the four diplomatic personnel in Benghazi, Libya. [For the record, he repeated the phrase that Stewart had used. Those who have taken our media training know, never to repeat the 'bait phrase' in the question.]
4. Obama needs to make the case for what he will do in the next four years. His release of his 20 page pamphlet with bullet point details of his agenda this week is a recognition that a sitting President can't defend the past, but must look forward. Although criticized as not being bold, nevertheless, it is better late than never and may provide him with some insurance against swing voters who want to know where he would take the country in the next four years.
5. Both parties have to focus on the vote of women. Romney, who has closed the gap significantly in recent weeks, must avoid bogging down in social issues, while focusing on how he would ensure equality and fairness in the hiring, pay and treatment of women in the workforce. No more 'binders full of women' comments which was one of those Romney phrases that dominated coverage of the second debate, thus blunting his momentum.
6. Get out the vote. Both have strong GOTV capacities. In a race this close, it's the last weapon they have in the arsenal.

So, if you thought you'd heard enough about the campaign to date - you ain't seen nothin' yet!

Until next time.....


Who's Going to Win the VP Debate and Does it Matter?

Welcome back....
Well that once-in-a-generation debate performance took place last week, suddenly vaulting Mitt Romney into the lead in polls for the first time in many months. He did what he needed to do, while President Obama mailed it in. It could be the 'game changer' although with less than a month ago,
Here is my Canada AM debate preview (fast-forward 18:45 in). And this is how I predicted it on CPAC [Canadian Parliamentary Channel] just before the debate. As well,  I had a sense that the debate may prove to be that once in a generation experience. No one - including me - predicted what a wipe it would be for Romney!
  What Happened to Obama?
This has led to significant rumors in the media as to what happened to Obama? He wasn't properly prepared? Had a really bad strategy to let Romney off the hook? Annoyed because he had to spend his 20th wedding anniversary with Mitt instead of Michelle? He wasn't feeling well (according to Al Gore)? Who knows! My sense is that he completely under-estimated Romney; thought he didn't need to put the kind of extensive role-plays into it, combined with being a tad exhausted. The important take-away is that one more performance like that and President Obama may be a one-term President.
The Vice-Presidential Debate
Which brings us to Thursday night's Vice Presidential debate. Usually, these debates play a role as an interesting minor league for political junkies only. However, every once in a while, they can trump the Presidential debates in sound bites and media buzz.

The most famous example of this was the shellacking that the Dems' Sen. Lloyd Bentsen gave to the GOP's Sen. Dan Quayle with his "Jack Kennedy was a friend of mine. Senator you're no Jack Kennedy. "Devastating, but ultimately it didn't mean a hill of beans as George H. W. Bush (41) beat Mike Dukakis handily on election day.
 What the two VP candidates need to do in the debate
1. Do no harm. All Vice Presidential candidates do not want to be remembered as the one who brought down the ticket. Sarah Palin surprised many critics by actually doing well against the more experienced Joe Biden in the 2008 debate.
2. Attack the head of the ticket more than the VP candidate. Bob Dole was Gerald Ford's 'hatchet man' in 1976 and was almost too good at the role. He over-reached when he characterized the World Wars of the 20th Century as 'Democrat wars'. Ouch! The Ford team had to walk that one back. In this debate, there will be extra pressure on Joe Biden to point out what the Obama campaign feels are the statements of Mitt Romney in the first debate (most of which Obama ignored). Ryan will be a strong attack dog but will keep his focus on Obama as he does it.
3. Manage expectations well. That is particularly important in this debate as Joe Biden, although greatly experienced, has been stereo-typed as the master of the gaffe, but amiable and likeable. Paul Ryan on the other hand is largely unknown to most voters and Biden will try to define him clearly in negative terms.
4. Define the other guy while defining themselves. As the newcomer, Ryan will naturally attract some hard hits from Biden who will try to contrast his previous well-documented positions on health care and the budget, in particular. What is interesting here, is they are both Catholic blue-collar men who have a terrific ability to resonate with the middle class, suburban voter in a way that both Romney and Obama have more difficulty doing.
5. Target the swing voters in swing states. What has become even more clear following Romney's first debate success, is that he has to gain more traction in the swing states. Ohio, Florida, Colorado, Virginia are critically important. Ryan has not succeeded to date in bringing his home state of Wisconsin along, and will clearly want to highlight his Wisconsin roots in order to generate momentum in that swing state.
6. Show they have vision and energy for the future. If Romney loses, then Paul Ryan becomes the automatic leading candidate. Conversely, if Obama wins, Biden has a chance to compete toe-to-toe with Hilary Clinton and others. So, while each will deny adamantly any such interest, a powerful debate performance can be an excellent career move.


Winning the Presidential Debate

Welcome back!
      It's been a busy few weeks filled with travel, seminars, and lots of political and other news to make any media junkie salivate. Laura and I attended a dinner at the Waldorf Astoria in New York by the Appeal of Conscience Foundation who honored Canada's Prime Minister, Stephen Harper and business leaders Vikram Pandit, CEO of Citigroup and Virgina M. Rometty, President and CEO of IBM. According to many audience members that we spoke to, Mr. Harper's speech was indeed the highlight - garnering a huge ovation and a lot of buzz by the nearly 2000 business and political leaders in the room.
      There's a huge well of interest building for Wednesday's first Presidential debate and I will be doing some media 'hits' previewing it on Wednesday morning at 7:15 am EST on CTV's Canada AM and later in the day on CPAC (www.CPAC.ca). In this brief post, I will attempt to point out what both Mr. Obama and Mr. Romney has to do in order to experience 'the thrill of victory' and to avoid 'the agony of defeat'.
Winning the Presidential Debate
1. Frame the ballot question. For Mr. Romney, facing a [slowly] recovering economy and a growing optimism in America's future, needs to frame the vote as 'change vs. more of the same'. That's a sweeter spot for him than merely posing it as a referendum on the President's stewardship of the economy. For President Obama, he has to frame it as 'who do you trust to finish the job and restore jobs for Americans'? The trust question is stronger for him, as a combination of brutal ads which have defined Romney as well as Romney's mis-steps (the 47% video) have shaken trust in Romney.
2. Connect with the swing voters in the swing states. A shift of about 3% overall, and an upswing for Romney in key states - especially Ohio and Florida, Wisconsin and one or two others - could put him in the White House. With 60 million viewers paying attention - quite a number for the first time - this has the possibility of being a game-changer. But the burden is on Romney to move the dial. Obama can't play it totally safe, but it's up to Romney to change the dynamic that is now in play.
3. Defend without looking 'defensive'. Each will have to defend against a series of attack points and must deflect them effectively, while getting back on his message track. Looking weak, fazed or caught off guard will be a tweet-able disaster that can grow exponentially after the debate.
4. Look and sound Presidential. That is a delicate art. As John F. Kennedy proved in 1960; Ronald Reagan in 1980, Bill Clinton in 1992, it's vital to come across as someone whom you would trust with his finger on the nuclear button. It isn't based on your resumé or political experience. It is a combination of being 'comfortable in your own skin', sincere, determined, calm, yet with a sense of passion for the country and a voice for everyday Americans who get up every day, work hard, pay their taxes and obey the law.
5. Its not what you say, but how you say it that counts. According to a UCLA research project, 55% of the believed message comes from non-verbal cues (eye contact, facial expression, body language); 38% is based on the tone and attitude [Al Gore's heavy sighing and condescending tone hurt him badly in the 2000 debate with George W. Bush]; while only 7% of the believed message is based on what you actually say [again if you think of George W. Bush in 2000, his debate victory was not really based on his verbals]. however, a major blunder (Gerald Ford's 1976 gaffe in which he claimed that the Soviet Union does not dominate Eastern Europe was a huge blunder that may have cost him the election.]That doesn't mean they should have no content. On the contrary. Each must have a clear plan for how they would fix the economy and the major challenges facing America. That's the starting point for credibility - not the end point. The most memorable factors are the body language and tone.
6. Have crisp, clear answers to the questions. Evading questions immediately signals to the voter that he's just another politician who won't answer the question. The public has seen every version of evasion, so they need to address the thrust of every question - without 'litigating the case' as one of the Republican debate consultants advised the other day. This is not a detailed policy debate.
7. Remember you're in the voters' living room. Speak through the camera into the eyes of your voter. You have been invited into their living rooms and are seated at the end of the sofa. Have that conversation with that voter and his or her family about their concerns and aspirations.

Until next time.......


The 2012 Political Emmy Nominees are....

Welcome back...
Sunday night the Emmys were presented in a lavish ceremony in Hollywood. The upcoming political Emmys will be presented on Nov. 6th. It was inevitable that the 2012 campaigns - featuring a heavy reliance by the candidates on the talk shows and comedy programs would end up with their own Emmys.
The nominees for the 2012 political Emmys are.... 
1. Outstanding performance in a hidden video show, "The 47%" ......Mitt Romney at the now-infamous Florida fundraiser .... showing that he can captivate the nation after all.

2. The "I used to be the 'change' but now I admit you can't change from the inside" award goes to Barack Obama who did a giant U-turn on his core message. Hey, if he wins it, so much for the power of 'change' in the world of politics!
3. The 'be careful what metaphor you use' award goes to Romney aide Eric Fehrnstrom when he likened the need for Romney to change his political message in the Fall campaign to 'etch-a-sketch' forecast exactly what Romney needed to do -and is now doing. Coming at the end of a bruising primary campaign when Romney's conservative credentials were under constant attack, this metaphor was far more memorable than the Romney campaign would want.
4. Best supporting role by a political spouse award...was a close race between those dynamic and impressive women in an incredibly difficult role - until recently - between Michelle Obama and Ann Romney, when Ann was asked her response to critics within the party, she replied, “Stop it. This is hard. You want to try it, get in the ring. This is hard.” That may lead to Michelle pipping her at the post. Also Michelle's regular gigs on Letterman, Leno, and the daytime talk shows  might signal a whole new post-political career - which she hopes is four years away.
5. The 'how not to do a foreign tour' award goes to ..... the Romney campaign for his gaffe-laden London trip when he managed to insult Olympic organizers, the British people and topped it on a side trip to Poland when Rick Gorka, Mitt Romney's traveling press secretary at the Polish Tomb of the Unknown Soldier told reporters to "kiss my **s" and "shove it" (although that may have triggered greater support from his base).
6. The ' I know I have a plan - I just can't recall it' award goes to....Gov. Rick Perry, whose meltdown in the Michigan primary is now being ascribed to sleep apnea. Hey, whatever, but it pretty well sealed the fate of the Governor's Presidential bid.
7. The Rep. Todd Aiken 'open your mouth to change your feet' award goes to...a multiple winner in previous election years...Vice President Joe Biden - whose "going to put ya'll back in chains" comment is pegged to win in a fairly crowded field this year.
8. The lifetime achievement award in political oratory goes to...Bill Clinton whose speech at the Democratic convention so clearly outshone the President's (and everyone else's in both parties for that matter) that it pretty well guarantees that all future Democrat nominees will not ask him to speak at their convention again.
So I hope you're enjoying the political races wherever you are...but you know deep down that only if you exercise your hard-won right to vote will you be entitled to blame, complain or celebrate the eventual winners!
Until next time.....


6 Rules for Politicians to Follow

Welcome back....
With 47 days left in the Presidential campaign, it's time to remind ourselves of the rules to follow if you want to get elected  to any office - Senator, Governor, Congressman, Mayor, let alone President. With Mitt Romney's recent problems on the campaign trail, let's nail down those rules, shall we?
Six Rules for Politicians to Follow
1. If you make a mistake get out there and say you're sorry. In Mitt Romney's case, the leak by Jimmy Carter's grandson of a video taken at a fundraiser several months ago showed him writing off 47% of the electorate. Now that's a mistake!  Admit that what you said was wrong and use the opportunity to get across the message that you meant to convey. Did it happen? No, instead Mitt went out and refused to take back what he said. He merely dubbed his words "not elegantly stated". Didn't want to sound too elitist, I guess. Romney stands by his comments
2. Never interrrupt a hanging.  In Obama's case, when he was asked to respond to Romney's gaffe (on The David Letterman Show - rather than attack Romney again - he merely said "a President has to be President for all the people". Pow! Although an awkward issue emerged when the President was asked by Letterman how much the national debt was and he replied that he couldn't remember! Maybe the answer - $16 trillion - $5 trillion of which was added in the past four years - was too painful to recall!
3. Let nothing get in between you and your voter. Every day that you spend having to defend yourself is a 'gift that keeps on giving' to your opponent, because the controversy and emotions cloud the ability to get your message across. Over the past two weeks, Mitt Romney has spent more days defending, explaining or trying to ignore the lead story on the news.
4. When there are lives lost, suspend 'politics as usual' for at least 24 to 48 hours. Timing is everything in politics - and in life for that matter. Romney's initial comments criticizing the Obama Administration for apologizing for that idiotic video which was the pretext for the storming of the American embassy in Cairo and the consulate in Libya. His attack on Obama came across as playing partisan politics while four American diplomats had just been murdered. Only now are the media interested in exploring whether or not the attacks were pre-planned.
5. Remember that the swing voter doesn't respond to your usual campaign talking points. They want to hear something different. Something that doesn't sound knee-jerk partisan or cheap-shot attacks. They want to hear a message and a tone that takes seriously the real issues and that the candidate doesn't take him or herself too seriously. To quote Will Rogers, "Everything is changing. People are taking their comedians seriously and the politicians as a joke." That might explain Mr. Obama's appearances on the late night talk shows. Mr. Romney could learn that lesson.
6. It's (almost) never too late to do the right thing. Let's say your campaign has been off the rails for months - trying to be someone you're not, afraid of offending your base etc., if you recognize it and decide to do something about it, go ahead. It's never too late. There are signs in the past day or two that the Romney campaign recognizes this. Romney has been moderating or nuancing his positions on health care (speaking proudly of his Massachusetts health care law); immigration reform (debunking his earlier suggestion for 'self-deportation'); growing the economy for 100% of Americans etc. Haunted, no doubt, by the 'etch-a-sketch' controversy that his aide predicted for the Fall campaign, it may have delayed him finally trying to get back on track.

So, is it too late for Mitt Romney? If a week is a lifetime in politics, Mitt Romney has nearly seven lifetimes to get it right! At this stage, though, his clear turnaround opportunity will be the debates, and of those, the strongest opportunity to re-launch is the first debate on October 3rd. I've got the beer on ice, the clicker nearby and the popcorn ready to pop!

One of my favorite political quotes:

"Ninety percent of the politicians give the other ten percent a bad reputation."
Henry A. Kissinger

Until next time.....


The Challenges for Obama and Romney

Welcome back.....
It's been an interesting and emotional week since my last posting.The Democrats wrapped up their Convention, setting the stage for an all-out fight to the finish. The 11th anniversary of 9/11 coincided with more outrages in Egypt and Libya, thus keeping it in the public consciousness. Although the 9/11 memorial services may gradually diminish each year in terms of public recognition; nevertheless, the events of 9/11 can - and should never - be forgotten, including the lessons learned.
The Post-Convention Challenges for Obama and Romney

It looks like President Obama has opened up a 4% lead over Mitt Romney following the end of the Democrats' Convention. What does it mean, if anything, for both campaigns?
For President Obama:
1. He cannot afford to rely on this bounce to move him past the post. How much of that was due to Bubba and his speech? Some analyses indicate that the bump in support does not come from those who are likely to vote. If true, that could be illusory.
2. He has to make the case for his re-election - not just rely on anti-Romney ads or negative campaigning. The polls indicate that the vast majority of Americans believe that the country is on the 'wrong-track'. Usually, a sitting President can't survive that.
3. President Obama must reach out to the mainstream, now that he has secured his base. It's vital  that he doesn't come across as being captured by his base - who are more liberal than them and whose positions on social and economic issues don't resonate comfortably with them. That's why he needs Bill Clinton - and it looks like the President knows that.
4. Obama needs to do well in the debates against Romney, but he would be happy with a draw. If Romney were to be seen as winning [exceeding expectations] - especially in the first debate - that would shift the momentum he seems to be enjoying following the Conventions.
For Mitt Romney:
1. He needs to keep his focus on defining himself and his values, as he has already been defined by an effective pounding by the Obama forces in their advertising blitz this summer.
2. Romney actually needs to win the debates - especially the first one - where perceptions will be the strongest. If he is ever going to gain momentum, it will be by winning toe-to-toe with the President.
3. He must be extremely disciplined in his messages. As this article demonstrates, Mitt Romney muddles his message on health care, the way he contrasts his approach to Obama must never sound like he is waffling or trying to have it both ways. Those traits are part of the 'defining Romney' messaging of the Obama campaign. He must frame the ballot question, "who do you trust to grow the economy, reduce the deficit and create jobs for Americans?" But he has to give specifics to persuade voters that he has a plan that they can understand and buy into.
4. Romney needs to focus like a laser on the battleground states - particularly Ohio, Florida and Virginia  - if he is going to have a chance. Without them, he doesn't have the electoral college votes.

Communications in a Crisis - Lessons Learned from 9/11
Declassified documents about security briefings in the run-up to 9/11 raise questions about the Bush White House's level of preparedness. Vanity Fair contributing editor Kurt Eichenwald in today's New York Times op-ed  The Deafness Before the Storm has heightened the debate over national security. Ari Fleischer and others have fought back furiously over the item's accuracy. That's a debate worth happening - even though both Obama and Romney will studiously avoid it - except in the most generic way.

While working yesterday, I found myself watching on my computer the ABC News Coverage of 9/11 as it went 'live' on that September day, hosted by the late - and great -  Peter Jennings. Hour by hour, one can see how it unfolded from the first shocking moments and all the way through the day as the horrible news only got worse. It was fascinating to watch it all, as I realize there was quite a bit that I had not seen. So here are the lessons I would draw from the handling of that terrible crisis eleven years ago, as a primer for future crises:
1. Avoid all speculation. As Peter Jennings and the ABC team aptly demonstrated, speak based on facts and information/  How often Peter would say, "we do not have confirmation on that" as any good journalist would do. That approach to the story gave confidence to the viewers in the 'facts' being presented.
2. It is vital for leaders to be present throughout the crisis. Mayor Rudolph Giuliani toured the scene and met with the media (along with Governor Pataki) after 2 p.m to provide an update on what was going on. Without speculating on the number of fatalities, he was able to give confidence that all was being done; that the federal, state, local authorities were working as a team, and to call for blood donations. Jennings' growing frustration with the absence from Washington of President Bush was evident as the day went on. The media were mostly kept away from the President, with very few on board Air Force One as it made its stops in Louisiana and then Kansas - with Vice President Cheney managing things from the White House.
3. Don't leave a large vacuum of information. It can create mass uncertainty. In the first several hours there was little information available on what airlines were involved, what airplanes and what flights were reported missing etc. One would expect now - with social media in full mode, that this information would be tweeted everywhere and reported by the media. You don't have to have all the information, but the need to get basic facts out there is critical to public confidence. Otherwise rumors will take hold.
4. Work with the media whenever you can. The media spend a significant part of their time trying to sort out fact from fiction. They call upon whatever expert they can to help them. In Jennings many hours on-air, he interviewed a former Chief of Staff, James Baker; a former national security advisor, Sandy Berger; the former head of New York City's emergency services, Senator John McCain, among many others as he sought to understand who might be behind it, how the airlines could have been so vulnerable, the lack of preparedness and did it in a solid, fair way.
5. Make sure your Emergency Management Center is situated in a secure place. The evacuation of the New York Office of Emergency Management - which had been housed at 7 World Trade Center - suddenly became a makeshift center caught right in the middle of the chaos.
6. Communications is key to everything. The inability for all fire, EMS and police personnel to communicate by radio had tragic consequences as orders to evacuate were not received. Many lessons have been learned, which doesn't take anything away from the brave responders.

Finally, the replay of the broadcast reinforces the scale of the tragedy, its psychic impact on America, but also the resilience of the American spirit. It also showed us the heroism that the fire, police and EMS personnel displayed as they went about their jobs with such dedication, professionalism and empathy. For all those who helped out - the unsung heroes whose names we may never know - thank you for all that you did on that bright September day "when the world stopped turning."

Until next time....