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....


Six Factors that Shaped the PQ Victory

Welcome back!
Labor Day marks the end of lazy days and with it our minds turn to shifting political winds - north and south of the border. 
Quebec Elects a PQ Minority Government
As the polls indicated, Pauline Marois and her Parti Quebecois party won a minority government (55 seats) with the Liberals in a close second (49 seats) and the CAQ with 19 seats and a clear hold on the balance of power. There were still a few seats that can change, but the die is cast. If Pauline Marois had won six more seats she could have counted on Francoise David's new Quebec Solidaires party (2 seats) to form a working majority. This means that there will be no chance of a referendum for separation in this term - which may last two years. Jean Charest has lost his seat which will no doubt trigger a quicker leadership race to ready the Liberals for next time. As he reminded voters, they lost by 1%, so anyone in future elections who doesn't think their vote counts, should think about that.
Six Factors that Shaped the Parti Quebecois Victory
1. The ballot question was "change vs. more of the same'. Jean Charest ran a very strong, energized campaign, but he could not overcome the 'time for a change' ballot question. The majority of voters, including a huge segment of the PQ vote don't want a referendum on separation. Yet they clearly wanted change. Pauline Marois certainly represented that.
2. The CAQ campaign exceeded early expectations. Francois Legault and his brand-new CAQ party did much better than early forecasts and were able to draw enough federalists away from Charest's Liberals to become the home of soft nationalists who wanted change. Not a bad effort given the 8 or 9 months since their creation.
3.Charest's key message came too late.  It was only late in the campaign that Jean Charest grabbed hold of a critical connection between the uncertainty of a threatened referendum and the economic impact of it. Pauline Marois, as a result, was allowed to sail through the debates largely untouched by some pretty hard questions that only got asked later.
4. The backwash of votes wasn't quite enough. The release of polls in the final days of the campaign showing a PQ victory was on its way triggered a pull back to the Liberals from the CAQ, but it clearly wasn't sufficient to stem the tide. It would have to have started earlier - as what happened in Alberta with the resurgent PCs under Alison Redford gaining as the Wildrose Alliance faded.
5. Quebecers embrace change - with limits. Quebecers trusted the PQ to give them change, but kept them on a short lease with a minority. They've seen radicalism in the streets, they have gone through referenda and uncertainty in the past. Now they are prepared to give change a chance. But change with limits.
6. Premier Charest took a gamble and lost. With a year left in his mandate, Jean Charest bet that a quick election was the only window he had to get an election over with before the Charbonneau Commission of Inquiry into the corruption issue takes off this fall. Like all gambles, your luck can run out. 
As always, Premier Charest was graceful and composed in his remarks. He took responsibility for the results and signalled that the party has a strong and enduring role to play. Although he has known loss before, he struck a gracious note and he managed to kept his emotions mostly in check, but combined it with the passion that he is known for. You've got to admire his tenacity and his personal skill sets as a political leader. He will be a hard person to replace in the political firmament in Quebec. 
The Democrats Have a Strong Convention Kick-off
The  Democrats opened up their convention with a clear theme ('Forward. Not Back.') and a strong string of speakers designed to carve out the differences between the Democrats and Republicans in stark terms. Governors Ted Strickland (ret. Ohio) and Deval Patrick (MA) pounded out their speeches strongly, with Patrick in particular galvanizing the Party's base. Gov. Martin O'Malley (MD) reached out to the 'greatest generation' and spoke to the middle class by reaching out to the values of previous generations and translating them to today's. No talks of compromise or bipartisanship. 
The first Latino keynote speaker, Mayor Julian Castro of San Antonio, presented a fresh face to the Convention in an effort to do what Barack Obama did at the 2004 DNC when he blew the doors off. Castro didn't reach those rhetorical heights, but he did well. He is positioned to reach the Hispanic vote in the election, but he gave his own career a big step forward with power, humor and lines like this: “My family’s story isn’t special. What’s special is the America that makes our story possible."
Michelle Obama Shines in the Spotlight
It was left to Michelle Obama to define the personal side of her husband and in so doing, she linked him to the voters that they need to reach - the middle class who are undecided. She did at least as well as Ann Romney. She was confident, poised and authentic in her delivery and her love for her husband. All without making it awkward or uncomfortable. She kept her focus on the message that "for Barrack the issues aren't political; they're personal." That had been essential to his victory in 2008 and she made a concerted effort to re-connect to that successful narrative to the voters.
What are the Polls Telling Us?

One of the best measures of how voters feel is illustrated in Poll Trackers' Talking Points Memo 'right track/wrong track' measure. The single biggest concern of the Democrats has to be that 63% of voters think the country is on the wrong track; while only 24% believe that it's on the right track. 
Keep a Close Eye on the Electoral College Numbers
As can be seen on the same page of the Poll Tracker is that President Obama holds a strong lead in the Electoral College projections of 273 to 191 for Romney (270 Electoral College votes needed to win). As we saw in the 2000 election, that is the name of the game. 
One cautionary note about polling numbers is that they don't reflect the lead in the electoral college.

It would be almost unprecedented for a sitting president to be re-elected given these numbers; however, it indicates the uncertainty voters are having over the alternative on offer. So, the Democrats in Charlotte need a bounce, and it will be built on differentiating their economic strategy - and their core values - from the Republicans. They need to come across as the voice of the middle class. That will mean managing a tight script also. 
So the stage is set for President Obama to knock it out of the park at the Bank of America Stadium on Thursday night. Unlike Mitt Romney he has a very high bar of expectations to meet in his oratorical skills. A powerful speech can create the bump he needs. 

The Republican Convention Results
It looks like Mitt Romney and the Republicans got a bump from their Convention - with Romney coming from 4 points back to tie with President Obama at 45% each. [Although Obama inched ahead a few days later by 1% as the bump appeared to be short-lived.]

As we discussed last week all Conventions are tightly scripted with a clear narrative running through it. For the Republicans, they followed a solid, safe strategy that pulled together the Republican voters with a sense of momentum. If the only unscripted 'edgy' element is an 82 year old actor's 'talk to the chair' performance, then you know the rest was completely 'on message'.  Hurricane Isaac distracted a huge amount of media attention and the cancellation of the planned first day of the Convention were clearly factors in neutralizing some of the potential for the Republicans. Luck always has a role to play in campaigns, and it looks like the GOP weren't exactly dealt the 'ace card'. However, they played the hand they were dealt and did a reasonable job at achieving their goals.
After this week, it will be the three Presidential debates that will be critical to victory. 

Until next time......