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?
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.
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.....