Jan 8, 2008

The Marketing Of The President

Kind of a sad side effect of our profession is how cynical I've become about politics. Rather than focusing in on what the candidates actually stand for, I find myself noticing their marketing schemes.

So that when I saw the headlines about Hillary Clinton getting "emotional" my first reaction was "oh that's clever. People keep complaining about how cold and scheming she is, so her handlers found a way to make her seem vulnerable."

Similar reaction to Mike Huckabee's Chuck Norris obsession: my first thought was "brilliant choice. Norris jokes appeal to precisely the type of younger, not-stridently-conservative voters that the Republicans can actually attract-- smart, blue collar guys who feel shut out by the prevailing Starbucks-Whole Foods yuppie culture."

Yeah, I know I should be thinking about the issues and all, but focusing on the fairly transparent marketing schemes is a lot more fun.


Unknown said...


I'm not so sure that Hillary Clinton getting emotional was a marketing scheme.

To me, she always come off as someone who considers herself a "woman of destiny", a "change agent" so to speak. A bit of an outsider coming in to shake up the old boys club.

Through hard work and many years of preparation, she became the presumptive nominee...she even overplayed her hand for a while on that and campaigned that way.

Then this young guy shows up, positions himself as the REAL change agent and blows her out of the water in Iowa. She finishes THIRD, behind a white male who is positioning himself as a change agent too.

So she goes to NH and sees the young guy is even getting stronger. I bet internal poll numbers show her losing big again - something she never expected to have happen. After all, she's a woman of destiny.

Her other spin, being 'ready' is true...but it isn't catching on.

Her dream is over, she's now toast and she basically knows it. And itt wasn't because of a "vast right-wing conspiracy" either. So she let her guard down and became human. Something most politicians are but have a hard time showing on the stump.

I'm not a Hillary fan or a hater. It's just that this was her year, but it looks like it Obama's that much more.

Anonymous said...

Issues are the same for all of them. The marketing angle is all I can focus on. 10 more months of this crap, I’m just waiting to see when the GOP will play the race card with Obama since the the terrorist fear card seems to be falling on deaf ears.

Alan Wolk said...

@JPT: All that may be true, but I still feel her handlers would not have allowed the (almost) tears unless they felt there was a reason for them.

Unknown said...

As of now, she's winning. So my days as a pundit are numbered.

I'm toast. ; )

Alan Wolk said...

@JPT: CNN just called NH for her.
Looks like crying works ;)

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

So I guess the after NH, it's Hillary cried, Mitt tried and Fred died.


Anonymous said...

did anyone see the footage? that was hardly the "emotional breakdown" that the media, ever hungry for news, portrayed. yes, she was bit choked up, let's face it: campaign trail life is tough, but a tear-fest? hardly.

it's not watching the marketing ploys at work that's making everyone cynical about politics, it's politics.

Anonymous said...

playing cards:the drug dealer card has already been played on obama...that's the one where dealer from the clinton camp gets fired for the playing the card
while the remaining dealers apologize until the next card is played...there is no race card to play, no woman card to play, no old codger card to play, no crazy evangelist card to play because those are cards already on the table....
finding new cards and getting them exposed during the hand is the job of the dealers and they are good at it as long as they are willing to take the fall

Anonymous said...

americans choose their presidents in the most painful and expensive manner possible. it's insane. and unnecessary. and the argument that the primary process sorts the wheat from the chaff, to use an iowan allusion, is just bullshit. it just gives rich guys, like Romney , a huge edge.

at the very least we should ban political advertising on tv and radio like they do in europe. and for good reason. it's invariably poisonously negative.

Anonymous said...

crying failed muskie in 1972 in new hampshire when it appeared no one wanted a crying president
we are told crying worked for clinton in 2008 when it appears 40% of NH democrats wanted a crying president
kerry went for obama cause he knows clinton and edwards well....

Anonymous said...

todd's sixth reader, who usually makes sense on matters far and wide, has come out for the partial suspension of free speech by banning "political advertising on tv and radio like they do in europe."
why stop there...just ban political speech entirely... like they do in asia, africa, and the middle east.
that way none of that icky negative talk will get out and we can all be friends...

Anonymous said...

the thing is, political advertising isn't free speech. it's very expensive speech.

in the UK, for example, each party gets an equal amount of FREE TV air time to present its case to the masses (as opposed to hiding behind PACs and slinging Swiftboat-type mud at opponents).

TV advertising isn't necessary for democracy to flourish is all I'm saying.

Anonymous said...

1) EXPENSIVE SPEECH---the swift boat stuff was financed with very little money...it was well-targeted, though, and the so-called free media (or earned media, as the pols say) picked it up...and played it.....amusingly, depending how you look at it, the kerry campaign had far more money to toss around, but tossed it around badly....and then at the end froze....it left behind a surplus of 14 million dollars....the first prsidential campaign since george washington to have a surplus
2)"Tv advertising isn't necessary for democracy to flourish"...no question of that...but to ban TV advertising is to repeal the first amendment. Being a part of masses like I am, I like to see people express themselves...and those swift boaters did just that...as right now the NYC firemen are doing against rudy....grudges (real or imagined) play out
3) In the U.S. far more free time is given by the TV stations than in Europe.....the debates are examples of such....the biggest example....and the masses and the elites can watch them....in 2004, more people voted for president than ever in history...in 2008 the number will jump again............
4) How much will Bloomberg spend if he comes in?
5) I once did a campaign for the president of aruba....advertising was 5% of the budget....dwarfed by the 55% devoted to transportation to make sure the right masses got to the polls on election day...That's democracy in action

Anonymous said...

well you seem to know a lot more about political advertising than i do, ACLU.

all i'm saying is, having lived in both europe and here i'm not digging the way it's done here. i think it does more bad than good. in europe, by virtue of not having the ability to smear opponents on-air, it actually does become about the issues. the politicians are equally weaselly but their weaselness is kept in check.

and the debates don't count. they're ratings-fests controlled by the networks and moderated by idiots apparently.

we don't look at it as restricting anyone's free speech, we just know what will happen if we give politicians unfettered access to the airwaves: they will pollute it. politicians are desperate characters and can't be trusted.

and regulation isn't always necesssarily a bad thing. nobody's suggesting prying free speech from your cold dead lips. just suggesting that maybe there's a better way.

plus, and this is an ad blog, US political ads are always crap and annoying. at least the brits have a bit of fun with their political posters.

Anonymous said...

>>>and the debates don't count. they're ratings-fests controlled by the networks and moderated by idiots apparently.<<<<
Moderated by idiots, yes. The pack o' them. They seem to specialize in infantile questions. Russert the worst of them.
Ratings-fests, no. The stations don't sell time on them. They are a loser...and the networks roadblock them.
Debates don't count. Well, a good argument can be made that debates greatly determined the 1960, 1976, and 2000 races. And the 1980 (Reagan) Republican primaries. Sometimes, too, a bad performance such as Bush in 1992 reveals a man who is tired and wants to go home.
Negative political commercials that work invariably show and/or tell the public something they didn't know about the candidate. The best ones reveal true flaws (Kerry's circumlocutions in 2004; that Allen guy revealed to be a buffoon in 2006; Dukakis revealed to be an ideologue, not a manager of a state's miracle recovery in 1988.)

Anonymous said...


the debates are intended as, and will become, ratings-fests. there's huge interest and the writers are on strike. and you can't satisfactorily watch a horse race online. if anything, there have been too many debates this time.

but the personalities are actually interesting this time. there's a black dude who might really win! and bush can't.

the purchase decision is going be made a lot more keenly this time round. hopefully america will wake up and vote.

Anonymous said...


well that's because we realize that our politiciams are our servants, not our leaders. that's why. americans expect too much of politicians. which is setting yourself up for disappointment every time.

george bush should have put an end to overexpectation once and for all, one would hope.

mitt romney worryingly suggests otherwise.

Anonymous said...

Good comment on leaders vs. servants.
Wish it were true.
The European "servants" are too clever, I guess, to be seen as "leaders."
The systems are so different, parliamentary vs American President+ Congress. Thus Churchill could get thrown out of Downing Street after WWII when leaders were necessary to beat down various Fuehrers and Duces.
One thing that America is getting closer to Europe in is that party differences are really radical.
Until this year, I think Clinton-Bush-Dole-Bush-Mondale-Carter
could all be in the same party and
kinda trundle along.
This time, on a broad range of issues, it could be the old Labour vs. Conservative.
Harry Truman had a nice line when he left the White House. "I'm getting a promotion. To citizen."

Anonymous said...

parliamentary system does keep the government on its toes. you lose your majority, you're gone. ever see UK parliamentary Question Time? can you imagine if bush et al got roasted like that on a regular basis in public.

when i first came to USA in early 90s it did feel like you say. it was hard to discern any real differences between the two parties. both were middle of the road management types. a good thing.

but in the mid 90s the hysterical republican noise machine started up. attacking clinton over everything all the time. whitewater etc. and it became obvious that they valued getting power over everything else, inc. the dignity of the office of the presidency.

it's been a very one-sided polarization. the republicans have magnified the differences and created artificial ones. americans aren't by nature extremist. does anyone really give a shit about gay marriage?

coincidentally it's happened at a time when politics in europe are becoming more moderate and centrist. everybody ripped off clinton's strategy.