For perspective on the difference between Democratic and Republican midterm strategy, you really have to read Derek Willis’s NYT Upshot post “Democrats Are Spending More on the Ground in Key Senate Races.” The centerpiece in his post, quite a jaw-dropper really, is a chart, “A Democratic Edge in Key Senate Races,” which graphically depicts how much of the midterm outcome is riding on Dem’s GOTV spending.
In Alaska, for example, Dems are spending $1.9 million for “local staffers; get-out-the-vote efforts and other field operations.” to re-elect Mark Begich, vs. less than $225K for the Repubican candidate. In Colorado the difference is even greater, with Dems spending $4.4 million on staff and voter contact operations, compared the the Republicans’ spending a paltry $556K for their candidate. In North Carolina Democrats are spending $3.2 million on ground game efforts to re-elect Sen. Kay Hagan, compared to less than $836K for her GOP opponent. In Iowa it’s $1.3 mill for Democrat Rep. Bruce Braley against $105K for his adversary.
Willis adds that outside groups, such as super PACs, environmental and reproductive rights groups “working on behalf of Democratic candidates have extended the advantage.” Republicans, lacking the ground troops, have for the most part opted for investments in more traditional methods, such as media and postal ads.
Much depends on how good Democratic high-tech voter targeting efforts like the Bannock Street Project really are, vs. the GOP’s ad saturation strategy. But Dems are not withdrawing from the ad wars in any sense, explains Willis:
In Alaska, Colorado, Iowa and North Carolina, the number of network television spots is split roughly evenly between the two sides, according to data compiled by Echelon Insights, a Republican digital consulting firm…Spending on field operations is still a fraction of the amount that goes to television and other forms of advertising, and campaigns are reluctant to take money away from trying to reach mass audiences, even if it’s unclear in many cases how many persuadable voters broadcast advertisements reach.
Democrats clearly recognize that they have to remain competitive in fronting strong television ads, matching the Republican investment. But they also believe they can target swing voters better than can the Republicans, and they can put more trained canvassers on their front porches– and with a better message.
It’s a big gamble. But credit Democrats with the realization that getting different midterm results requires a different GOTV strategy. So far, dozens of better-than-expected snapshot polls suggest they may be right.
I was looking at some recent campaign gaffes in elections around the world and it reminded me of a recent article on Australian examples by Peter Chen from Sydney University.
I first met Peter Chen briefly in 2008 at a post-2007-federal-election workshop at ANU where he entertained a room of political science academics and practitioners with YouTube clips from the 2007 election campaign. Last year he wrote an interesting piece for The Drum about campaign gaffes http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-08-19/chen-campaign-gaffes/4895246
If you don’t have time to read the 2012 thesis you might prefer this shorter article from 2012 “Social Media, Youth Participation and Australian Elections” http://www.aec.gov.au/About_AEC/research/caber/files/1b.pdf … in a nutshell: ” Social media used for political purposes is likely though, in the first instance, to attract those with pre-existing strong political interests. However, the generalisation of social media use, and its focus on sociality and community building, has the potential to change the way trusted political information is distributed and engagement occurs.”
Dr Chen’s thesis reveals he “is a lecturer in media and politics at the University of Sydney. He holds a PhD from The Australian National University. His research focuses on the relationship between media and political processes, with a particular interest in new forms of communication. He also teaches and researches in the areas of public policy, Australian politics and social movements. Peter is the author of numerous articles and chapters on the role of digital media in Australian political life, and the author of Electronic Engagement: A Guide for Public Managers (ANU E Press, 2007) and the co-author of Electronic Democracy? The Impact of New Communications Technologies on Australian Democracy (Democratic Audit of Australia, 2006). He is a member of the editorial boards of the Journal of Information Technology & Politics and the International Journal of Electronic Governance.
I can’t seem to find him on Twitter though, which is a bit disappointing.
In the Drum article Dr Chen refers primarily to Mr Abbott’s “suppository of all wisdom” gaffe and concludes “there is some truth in the repression view of gaffes. Where there are cognitive associations between concepts, verbal misstatements may reflect them in unguarded moments. The important question is to be able to delineate between simple error and significant and telling Freudian slip. In the latter case this would be most observable where these errors are repeated over time, eliminating the “momentary distraction” and “linguistic similarity” explanations. Tony Abbott may not have a deeply suppressed anal fixation, but his tendency towards repeated gender stereotypes (ironing and women, sex appeal as an important characteristic for women in public life, talking about Indigenous women simply as passive victims) does provide us with a sense that, in this policy area, there’s something to the slip of the tongue.”
Sometimes in politics leaders have to make tough, difficult decisions and this is one where you have to give the Victorian Liberals some credit… but also ask why it took so long? Why didn’t anyone ring an alarm bell earlier, or was it rung and ignored until the cost in advertising and marketing the deteriorating Liberal brand in Victoria become too high?
“LABOR’S election advertising strategist, Dee Madigan, says the party cannot blame the media for its defeat last year given its own communication failures and reveals she opposed a push from Kevin Rudd’s inner circle to target News Corp Australia over allegations of media bias.
“Certain forces within the PM’s office tried to push this as part of the (campaign) narrative,” Ms Madigan writes in The Hard Sell : The Tricks of Political Advertising.
“Media bias is just not something that resonated with the swinging voters.”
Ms Madigan’s book, to be launched today by former Queensland Labor premier Anna Bligh, exposes other divisions over campaign strategy, including the “A New Way” slogan and Kevin Rudd’s micromanagement of campaign operations.
While criticising The Daily Telegraph’s election coverage, Ms Madigan reveals the issue of media bias did not rate as an issue with voters in the party’s focus groups.
“I remember one focus group at which the facilitator tried over and over to see if there was any interest in media bias,” Ms Madigan writes. “One fellow finally piped up and said, ‘Well I do think the media in this country is biased … Collingwood always gets a bad rap’.”
Ms Madigan describes Labor’s “A New Way” slogan as “a terrible idea” and says it was imposed on the campaign by Mr Rudd, who “wanted it”.
“While ‘A New Way’ was a decent strategy for Rudd’s comeback, it should never have been the strapline of the positive ads,” Ms Madigan writes. “Because unless we were planning on staying totally positive … the entire press would rightly call us hypocrites.”
When asked if the slogan “A New Way” would appear with ads Ms Madigan was shooting, her response was blunt: “Only if we want every single f..king person to laugh at us.”
Mr Rudd’s strategist, Bruce Hawker, wrote in his campaign diary that the slogan was recommended by advertising leader Neil Lawrence, that it tested well, and it was agreed to at meetings attended by Ms Madigan.
The Hard Sell (MUP) examines advertising, particularly political advertising, in Australia. It couples extensive academic research with the author’s experience in corporate, community and political communications.
Ms Madigan says Labor stopped referring to “Gonski” as a label for its school reforms as “it had no emotional pull for parents” unlike the term “education funding”.
Although Ms Madigan strongly defends Labor’s economic management she says the party failed to communicate this effectively.
“We never did manage to sell the economy. As tempting as it would be to put all the blame at the feet of a largely unfriendly press, the reality was that much of the problem lay with Labor’s failure to sell its handling of the global financial crisis.”
Jon Faine’s co-host is director, producer, screenwriter, actor and comedian, Rob Sitch whose latest ABC TV series Utopia, premiered last night at 8:30pm.
Their first guest is creative director, author and political commentator, Dee Madigan. Her book is called The Hard Sell: The tricks of political advertising.
“Negative ads work and the reason they work is because they hone in on the people who are disengaged,” she says.
“Disengaged voters are far more likely to vote against a party than for them.”
Then they are joined by Dr Stephen Mills, former speechwriter to Prime Minister Bob Hawke and political journalist, who now lectures at the Graduate School of Government at the University of Sydney.
When asked about the campaign directors that he interviewed for his latest book, The Professionals: Strategy, Money and the Rise of the Political Campaigner in Australia, he says, “They’re intelligent, they’re focused, they are loyal party servants and they are doing their job which is to win the election.
“I think the real reason Rudd lost from a campaign point-of-view, is that he had no discipline in his campaign strategy.”
and no discussion about political advertising would be complete without the inclusion of this explanatory dissection of negative Liberal TV ads from 2007:
In coming days I’m planning to add some historical information about the most recent ACT Assembly election, which was held on 20 October 2012. The first item is a submission made by one of our member’s Chris Monnox to a post-election report compiled after the campaign. Chris is an author and academic, who also recently wrote a very comprehensive history of ACT Labor.
I’ll begin by attaching a pdf copy of Chris’s submission.
As mentioned previously, I’m not alone in thinking about how professional Australian politics has becomes over the past few decades. For several years since I started a thesis, which is now on a back-burner due to work, family, life, etc.
A couple of years ago I read the ad below and it got me thinking again …then I was distracted by the small matter of helping a government get re-elected and managing a party office…. Now I’m thinking again. If a 20-something Senator in the Greens can advertise such a well-defined professional campaign position why aren’t there more Australian books, blogs and forums on political campaigning and campaign techniques? Where does one go to get qualified for such a well-paid job?*
Then around October last year at a media conference in ANU I heard that Greg Jericho was heading up the new “Political Communications” degree training at UC – great stuff!
CAMPAIGNS & COMMUNICATIONS MANAGER – Position Description Senator Sarah Hanson-Young
Campaigns & Communications Manager SENATOR SARAH HANSON-YOUNG
26th July 2012 2:46 pm
The Campaigns & Communications Manager (CCM) would suit a highly motivated person with a strong history in managing large-scale campaigns in a political environment, and who possesses highly developed strategic and communications skills. As part of a small team the CCM will be responsible for the overall management of the Senator’s re-election campaign along with management of strategic communications and campaign priorities of the Senator’s various portfolios. The CCM will work closely with the Senator’s Chief of Staff and Media Advisor to ensure day-to-day communications are strategic and effective. The CCM will also work with the Senator’s Electorate Liaison officer on campaign priorities and election preparations.
Roles and Responsibilities
1. Primary responsibility for coordinating the Senator’s re-election campaign.
2. Develop and manage the Senator’s communication strategy.
3. Work with Media Advisor to ensure all communications are clear, effective and strategic.
4. Develop and maintain effective working relationships with relevant internal and external stakeholders;
5. Develop and support key campaigns on key portfolio priorities.
6. Work closely with internal and external stakeholders to ensure consistency and co-ordination of the Senator’s strategic direction, communications and campaign priorities.
7. Identify campaigning opportunities that support parliamentary work and parliamentary opportunities that will support ongoing campaigns.
8. Help manage and coordinate Senator’s media appearances and requests as required.
9. Manage the production of communication materials produced and authorised by the Senator’s office.
10. Represent the Senator on internal election campaign committees and working groups.
11. Represent the Senator at official events, party functions, community meetings and public engagements if required.
A salary within the range $60,827 -69,216pa will be determined commensurate with relevant skills and experience. In addition, an allowance in the range $14,319-$17,898 is payable in lieu of overtime.
Applications addressing the selection criteria and the names of two referees should be forwarded to: firstname.lastname@example.org by 8 August 2012. Position Description Senator Sarah Hanson-Young Campaigns & Communications Manager
If you’ve read my earlier (now slightly dated) literature review or discussed political campaigning with me over a few beers (I apologise for everything I said after the third beer) you’ll know I often lament about the relative lack of professional and academic interest in political campaign training in Australia. Well it’s clear I’m not the only one, because this week in Sydney there’ll be an inaugural event that brings many academics and practitioners together to discuss this very thing!
Check out the website: http://www.cmpm2014.org/ for “The 2014 Australia New Zealand WORKSHOP ON CAMPAIGN MANAGEMENT & POLITICAL MARKETING”. As far as I know registration is open to all those with an interest in this field, academic or otherwise.
As the website explains: “In 2014, the University of Sydney’s Graduate School of Government will play host to the second Australia-New Zealand Workshop on Campaign Management and Political Marketing. The workshop will bring together academics and practitioners for an in-depth discussion of current and emerging trends in campaign management and political marketing, and generate new networks and opportunities for further trans-Tasman and international research. The workshop will particularly focus on the intersection between research and practice, and is open to academics, party representatives, political consultants, research students and civil society campaigners.”
Political polling, door-knocking, the targeting of marginal seats and swinging voters. They’re terms all Australians are now very familiar with as elections continually roll around. But that wasn’t always the case. Academic and author Stephen Mills examines how politics in Australia has been shaped and influenced in the newly published The Professionals: Strategy, Money and the Rise of the Political Campaigner in Australia.
That’s not Stephen, it’s Liberal Party National Director Mr Brian Loughnane, one of the many interviewees featured in Stephen’s new book. Do yourself a favour and buy it.