5 Reasons Why Doubling Down Won't Work

Welcome back!
It's been such a busy New Year that I haven't got around to a 2014 blog post until now. Laura and I just got back from New Jersey - where we did a seminar, and then New York City where we took a few days to unwind. Among the highlights was when we took in the new Broadway play, 'All the Way' about the first year of Lyndon Baines Johnson's presidency as he pushes the Civil Rights Bill through Congress.                                                                                                                                    
Playing LBJ was the multi-talented Bryan Cranston whose tour-de-force performance brought the Neil Simon Theater audience to its feet. We had a chance to meet him after the show, and I was impressed by his great attitude and patience with all the fans. The Breaking Bad star told me how he loved working in Canada, and rhymed off all the cities where he had worked - Toronto, Montreal, Calgary, and Vancouver. There wasn't a hint of Walter White that emerged!

Gov. Christie Tries to Recover His Brand
While in the Tri-State area we were able to catch up on the travails of Gov. Chris Christie as he tries to recover from his Bridge issue. Although no one brought it up at a Town Hall meeting, the national media were all over it, looking for evidence that the issue had created permanent damage to his political brand - and thus his 2016 putative Presidential bid. Although two years is a lifetime in politics, he now has a mountain to climb in order to recover. What the allegedly deliberate traffic carnage revealed was a petty, partisan motive that was at odds with his brand of the truth-teller who wasn't going to let partisanship get in the way of helping his state. [Recall his bromance with President Obama in the post-Sandy recovery. A devastating critique by the New York Times' Maureen Dowd pretty well sums up his challenges. Which probably means...Jeb Bush will be testing the waters in a serious way.

Doubling Down....and out?
I have just finished reading Mark Halperin and John Heilemann's insightful new book Double Down, their account of the 2012 Presidential election campaign. It's the follow-up book to their smash hit, Game Change, which was a brilliant chronicle of the 2008 Presidential campaign.  Double down can be defined as, adopting a high-risk, high-reward strategy. Romney deployed it increasingly throughout the primaries and then in the Fall campaign - to increasingly disastrous results.
As the Romney campaign 'doubled down' on his Republican base, and President Obama did the same with his Democrat base [which is wider], some lessons can be learned that apply elsewhere.

5 Reasons why Doubling Down Won't Work
1. The public is increasingly fed up with 'politics as usual'. Although this has been a long time in coming, any political party or leader who smacks of playing the same old partisan games is offside with the voter. When people are looking for signs of principle and character, such games are a major turn-off.
2. It makes it hard to reach the uncommitted voter. Although it's vitally important to keep a political party's base onside the name of the game is the middle class voter who is worried about jobs and the economy. Doubling down on the base makes no effort to 'cross the chasm' to reach the uncommitted voter who is not politically invested.
3. The political zeitgeist is undergoing a profound change. Personal attacks and cheap shots have lost their 'appeal'. Although they can gain headlines, getting personal is reminiscent of school yard bullies. Although it doesn't automatically show up in polls, when the public sees someone who represents change, not only in policies, but in vision and tone, they leap to it. Witness Obama in 2008 and - for a limited time in 2012-13 - Gov. Chris Christie. North of the border, Justin Trudeau is betting that his 'non-partisan' messaging and actions such as his Senate initiative will position him as less partisan and more in tune with the political zeitgeist.
4. It's hard to project true leadership when you're busy attacking your opponents. NDP Leader Tom Mulcair has proven to be an effective 'prosecutor' of Prime Minister Harper on the Senate 'scandal' issue. Yet very few flock to a prosecutor as a visionary. That may partially explain the lack of 'lift' under Mulcair in the past year. This past week, Defence Minister Rob Nicholson went out of his way to attack Lt. Gen. (ret.) Andrew Leslie for accepting a $72,000 payment to cover the costs of his final move, as allowed for in Canadian Forces policy]. While it might be red meat for the base, such an aggressive, personal attack runs the risk of being seen as mostly political in its motivation - as Leslie is now a declared Liberal defence policy adviser to Justin Trudeau. l.

5. People get tired of hearing the same thing over and over again. This is true in politics and it's also true in television. Piers Morgan doubled down on his belief that viewers would tune in to his repetitive anti-gun diatribes [no matter how legitimate some of them may have been]. The news that CNN is pulling the plug on Piers Morgan Tonight is not a big surprise.

I can't sign off without a special congratulations to my partner, Laura Peck, who started this company with me 30 years ago this year. It has just been announced that Laura has won the WCT [Women in Communications and Technology] Award for Communications Excellence. The Awards Ceremony will be held on April 7th and I will proudly be there along with her.

On a final note.....Our thoughts are with the Ukrainian people...
Our thoughts are with the people of Ukraine, with the events unfolding in Kiev leading to the removal of the President by the Ukrainian Parliament and the ordering of an election, I couldn't help but think back about five years when Laura and I were in Kiev and conducted three seminars for the three main courts of Ukraine. Hopefully, part of the new revolution will ensure that the rule of law will prevail, with an independent judiciary. Our thoughts and best wishes are for the Ukrainian people as they go through this historic revolution.
So for now, it's off to Saskatchewan - where it's a dry cold - and we will see you all soon!
Until next time....

1 comment:

  1. Welcome back! Excellent observations all, and congratulations to Laura Peck on her win.