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.....

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