Gaffes, Games and Gambles

Welcome back...
I hope you've been enjoying the summer as much as I have.
On CFRA with host Marc

I've been spending time occasionally doing interviews - as with this one (left) on CFRA with host Marc Sutcliffe discussing my last blog. Lots of fun!
Although Laura and I haven't taken much time off yet, nevertheless the rhythms of summer have taken hold and we're going with them...a little golf...swimming twice a day, catching up on my reading.

Speaking of summer books, I was pleasantly surprised by 'Calico Joe' by John Grisham and am thoroughly enjoying 'In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror and the American Family in Hitler's Berlin' by Erik Larson '. Both are fabulous reads on a lazy day. When I get even too lazy to read, I'm going to my audio books next.....
Gaffes and the Games
No doubt like hundreds of millions of others, you've been glued to the Olympics. Or were you like Mitt Romney who arrived in London only to insult his hosts and underscore the fact that he had no intention of watching his wife's horse in the dressage competition?
Romney 'walks it back' at No. 10
Let's hone in for a moment on the 'insult your hosts' issue. It is true that it was the mildest of criticisms, but as the guy who headed up the 2002 Salt Lake City Olympics, Mr. Romney had to know that a country's pride in the Olympics transcends the facts on the ground. Sure, there were mess-ups over hiring security guards and threatened immigration agent strikes...but it took a bit of a tin ear for Romney to bring it up.
A little advice for Romney here might be in order. Think, "I'm over at someone's house for dinner - and there are tabloid reporters attending. I'll be totally positive and upbeat about the entire dinner - no matter what!" You can't go too far wrong. For Mitt's sake, hopefully he learned that lesson.
Are his Olymic errors permanently damaging? No, I don't believe so. It's more of a missed opportunity. His foreign trip was a chance for Romney to show his international credibility and comfort. Yet all the coverage was on his 'gaffes' - even following him to Israel where he proceeded to dub Jerusalem the 'capital'. The rule is, "don't break into jail". Just when Mitt needed to turn the channel away from his Bain-and-tax return' issues, he turned to a channel that really threw him onto the defensive.

Romney and the media in Warsaw
UPDATE: 07/31/2012 Much hand-wringing by critics and politicos over Romney's stop in Poland. his traveling press secretary Rick Gorka told a reporter who screamed out a question at Romney as he left the Polish Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and as he was getting into his car, Gorka was heard to say "kiss my a**. This is a holy site for the people of Poland. Show some respect." He then told Politico's Jonathan Martin to "shove it." Apparently, he later called two reporters and apologized to them, referring to his comments as "inappropriate".
ANALYSIS: Yes, they were no doubt inappropriate, and they served to lead the newscasts (of course) as the Romney team flew back to Boston. This is not good, in and of itself. However, there's another side to this and that is, it broke through the wall of overly tight control of the media and it showed some passion in the Romney camp. For every one person who would say (as with Casablanca's Captain Renault) "shocked..shocked!" at such language, there's at least one more who would say, "good for you!" Whether you agree with that or not, it probably served to energize Romney's base and get the campaign off its heels for the fight to come.
Take a look at it and see what you think: Romney's press aide tells reporter to "kiss my a**"

Gambling on a Campaign Strategy
The Obama and Romney campaigns are gambling during this pre-Convention period - trying to define their opponents and grab hold of the voters. Are their gambles working?
Obama's version of the 'swift boat'
strategy. Is it working?
Obama Gambles on a 'Swift Boat' Attack Strategy
One thing that has become clear, is that the Obama campaign has decided to 'swift boat' Romney (as the George W. Bush re-election campaign did to Democrat nominee John Kerry in 2004 to great effect) before the fall campaign begins.
During that campaign, Kerry tried to ignore it, but he failed to shake the (mostly false) 'swift boat' attacks. When he finally decided to fight back, it was too late - the damage was done. The Obama campaign is pounding away in both earned and paid media on his Bain Capital record - yes, distortions and exaggerations for sure - but it seems to be working. When they get tired of that Obama's team throw in Romney's refusal to release more than one year of his tax records - getting a lot of mileage out of the 'what has he got to hide' line of attack.
Romney Takes a Gamble on his 'Tax-and-Bain' issue
Romney should realize two things about this issue. 1) The voters already know he's super rich and pays about 15% on his taxes - complete with money socked away in tax havens. So, he's already taken the hit on that. Releasing the second year's tax statements will take it off the table. 2) He needs to push back on the Bain stuff without bogging down in it.  However, pushing back doesn't mean bogging down in it. Each time he does so, he has to hit Obama on the economy and what he would do differently. He hasn't found the right strategy to deal with the 'swift boat' strategy so far - but he's running out of time.
Ultimately, Who speaks for those who are hurting, angry and afraid?
Those votes  - and those who care about them - are up for grabs. Whoever takes hold of those millions of votes in a compelling way will win the election. Right now, neither Romney nor Obama can grab it and run with it. So.....attack ads are their default positions.
B.C. Premier Christy Clark Takes a Gamble
Premiers Clark and Redford
Face Off
It's demonstrably clear that B.C. Premier Christy Clark's demands for a 'fair share' of the Northern Gateway oil pipeline are driven strongly by her third place showing in the polls going into next May's election. Alberta Premier Alison Redford has emerged as a strong and confident leader on the national stage. She's taken a strong stand - dismissing the whole idea as a non-starter and telling her to talk to Enbridge if B.C. wants a bigger share of royalties. Premier Redford is gambling that Alberta voters will support her toughness regardless of the outcome of the B.C. election. She'll be proven right on that. However, there is little doubt that Premier Clark will gain some traction with the disaffected Liberals who have fled to the new Conservative party under leader John Cummins. So it's not much of a gamble after all - it's just shrewd politics.
Quebec Gambles on a Summer Election
Premier Charest's Election Gamble
Premier Jean Charest will pull the plug on his government in a day or two - gambling on a summer election. He has emerged much more strongly from the ongoing student strike, with the majority of the Quebec public gradually siding with his government.

This has thrown the Parti Quebecois and their leader Pauline Marois onto the defensive.

Will Pauline Marois' Gaffe Hurt?
Madame Marois's gaffe was to join the strikers and the Charest team quickly jumped on a video showing her banging together some casserole lids while marching with the students. That Liberal ad campaign seems to have paid off in the short term, but can the Liberals keep the momentum going?

This move by Charest is a classic 'calculated gamble' in which the upcoming September resumption of the Inquiry into corruption in the construction industry will hurt his government. So it's go now or get driven down in the Fall. It's all or nothing at this point for Charest. But he figures he has very little to lose.

Until next time....I hope all your gambles pay off! I'll see you back in September. Stay safe, relaxed and cool!


7 keys to winning the Presidency

It's been over four weeks since my last post, and where does the time fly? Since that time, we've been hard at work doing, what else? Seminars and consulting on communications strategies and skills, that's what! 

In between, Laura and I slipped a quick working visit into Washington for a great dinner for IMF Managing Director, Christine Lagarde hosted by the French Ambassador, Francois Delattre and his equally impressive wife Sophie. 

Besides the charismatic Mrs. Lagarde (left) - who gave an inspiring speech -there were all kinds of interesting folks from the world of media (Wolf Blitzer, Chris Matthews); the world of writing and punditry (Peggy Noonan, David Frum, Sally Quinn); politics (former Secretary of Defense William Cohen); and the judiciary (Justice Sonia Sotomayer). We also re-connected with some old friends from days gone by.
 Lots of buzz and gossip about the election, of course. Which leads me to this week's blog topic:
7 keys to winning the Presidency
With four months left to go until America chooses a President, much has been written on the Presidential race. Here are 7 keys to determining the winner:
1. A clear narrative that connects with the swing voter. What is that narrative? It is founded on who do you believe gets what Americans are going through. Millions of middle class voters without work; millions of homes either foreclosed upon or about to be; many millions more on food stamps. I could go on, but do Americans believe - either Obama or Romney - has the character to follow through on his word? Right now, there's a big gap in favor of Obama on that. The Obama campaign is defining Romney, but the Romney campaign has not strongly countered the negative labels. However, the Obama campaign shows signs of overkill, which can come across as class warfare. Advantage Obama. But it's by no means a done deal.
2. A believable economic plan to grow the economy, put people back to work and restore American pride. Through the 'noise' one hears cries of 'jobs', attacks on the other guy etc. Too close to call.
3. A coherent strategy - in which the earned media matches the paid media. President Obama is in pure campaign mode - with a structured photo opportunity that reinforces the message of the day. Romney is photographed with his luxurious speedboat on vacation, while Obama is photographed with workers, seniors and other target voters pitching his re-election message. Advantage Obama.
4. Massive fund raising - the magic elixir of politics. In recent months, Romney has pulled ahead of Obama, with no sign of slowing down. This could be a crucial difference in paid media and campaign organization. Advantage Romney.
5. A strong media campaign - including earned media, social media and advertising - that pulls together the message of the campaign, the photos, videos, fundraising and really engages the voters. From what I can see neither has emerged as a clear winner to date on that front.
6. Develop momentum. So critical in all winning campaigns, but so far both candidates have had several weeks of positive news, only to be tripped up for the next several weeks and so on. Right now, after a strong May and early June, the momentum has shifted back to Obama - triggered by the Supreme Court's ruling on 'Obamacare' and the Romney campaign's muddled response.   Too close to call.
7. Focus on the 'battleground' swing states. In as tight an election as this promises to be, the swing states will be the most important factor in determining the electoral college votes, and therefore, the Presidency.  As of now, the swing states are: Nevada, Colorado, Iowa, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Virginia and Florida. Take a guess: from which state will Mitt Romney choose his Vice Presidential running mate? These states will require a careful, ongoing analysis. Here is an interactive graphic map by the LA Times that is worth downloading: 2012 Swing States Electoral Map

Enbridge's Response to the Michigan Oil Spill
How does a company respond when they are heavily criticized in a regulatory report? I shared some of my thoughts - along with a few other consultants - in this Vancouver Sun story:
Enbridge brand can be repaired, say analysts

The Harper Government's Report Card
Recently, I spent an entire week of appearances on CTV's PowerPlay with Don Martin - in which Parliamentary Bureau Chief Bob Fife (along with Mercedes Stephenson) and I gave a report card on key Cabinet Ministers, as well as the Prime Minister. Of course, all of this was in anticipation of the Cabinet Shuffle that Wasn't. The premise was that, with the Harper government's gradual slide in the polls below the NDP's level of support, that the Prime Minister would have to shake up his Cabinet to put a 'fresh face' on his government. Well, as Mr. Harper has done many times, he confounded the pundits by refusing to do so. And guess what? It's worked for him before, so it may well work again. Just for the record, I gave him an A-.
Here are two of those broadcast items:
  We analyze ministerial performances of Ministers Bev Oda & John Duncan
  We analyze Ministers Lisa Raitt, Joe Oliver, and Prime Minister Harper

Until next time.....