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....