Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Post-Modern Campaigning - for all to see

Anyone who wants to understand the nature of the post-modern campaign has only to look at what is going on in Iowa; it provides a snapshot of what US politics is about and, to a large extent, tells us a lot about campaigning. Iowa is a key state for both Democrats and Republicans, winning there could mean winning the presidency. Whoever wins the nominations could be the party candidate and the level of support they win could ensure them the presidency: it is an indicator if nothing else.

Obama and Clinton are neck and neck, polls tell us. Obama's team are constant stressing their unique selling point of being outsiders of the Washington machine. His emails stress a comparative message:

"Attack ads and insults, distractions and dishonesty, and millions of dollars from outside groups and undisclosed donors. The Washington establishment is throwing everything at us to try and block our path. And these outside attack groups are just another part of the same broken system that turns people off from the political process. We chose to do this differently"

Whether out of necessity, for political capital, or for ideological reasons, Obama is the people's candidate. His campaign relies on donations from the public and he is matching his opponents somehow. He argues that $25 from each member of his grassroots campaign will tip the balance his way. What are they paying for, the traditional ad slots around the news to ensure his voice is heard as often as Hilary Clinton's. This is backed up by his 'Stand for Change' Tour taking in all major cities in the run up to tomorrow's caucus.
Meanwhile Republican Mike Huckabee is gaining exposure on the Jay Leno Tonight Show playing his bass guitar, well a similar ploy is argued to have worked for Clinton way back when. His opponent Mitt Romney is going for name recognition using Des Moines children. They have 'The Mitt' to hit each other with, an inflatable club with Mitt 08 written along it. Mitt is also holding 'House Party Huddles', where he visits voter's homes to chat with them, their extended families and their friends. This personal touch will only reach a few voters directly but, like Obama's famous dinners, could give the perception of interacting when reported in the media and talked about by voters.

It is all about recognition, getting the name know and ensuring everyone gets some sense of what the candidate wants voters to know about them. It encompasses high profile TV appearances, glossy ads in magazines, newspapers and on primetime TV slots, but also more traditional pavement politics though conducted with an eye to getting favourable media coverage and thrird party endorsement (voters promoting the candidate themselves). This review does not mention the web of course, but that is also employed by each of the candidates, they have Facebook groups, Youtube uploads and websites that offer videos, downloads the works. Highly cost intensive, a great spectator event, and none of the candidates can afford not to use every trick as to do so could lose those few votes crucial to winning the Iowan nomination. This is the post-modern campaign that tries to offer something for everyone, but also depends on the mainstream media to point voters in the right direction - how successful they are is judged, like most PR, through reading the headlines.

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