Sunday, February 10, 2008

Obama is getting serious

Obama tends to avoid substance, in fact his whole selling point seems to be more about image [him as the outsider] and his rhetoric of change than specific policies he intends to introduce. This is a sharp contrast to his main rival, last night Hillary Clinton made very specific promises to withdraw troops from Iraq and a range of social reform schemes. Obama was less specific in Virginia as he celebrated his primary victories. Interestingly though both attempted to cement Democrats behind them and against John McCain, perhaps all candidates now are advised it is time to appear like a president.

But there is still a question for Democrats, and for anyone interested in US politics. Obama seems to be attracting those not known for high involvement in politics; hence rhetoric and image is the most appropriate way of reaching and mobilising them. Clinton uses the symbolism associated with her husband but also challenges voters to think about their choice carefully and to think about the big issues. If Obama wins he may capture the support of all those voters who do not want to think too hard and for whom colour is not an issue; Clinton may have broader appeal based on the fact she can offer authenticity [if not the charisma of Obama], symbolic appeal and also hard policy. McCain, well will he be seen as Bush Mk II or III or can he emerge as the consensus candidate that appeals to centrists and right wingers. He also has a raft of issues to draw on, therefore the polls may indicate a lot about US voters and how they process campaign information as well as how the candidates are doing.


mattomac said...

I believe Obama will take Edwards as his Vp if he indeed beats Clinton.

As for McCain will the isolation of the more hardline consertatives effect his election campaign. Do you feel two sets of supporters who were massively important in previous elections; the baby boomers of Clinton and the bible belt of Bush will simply stay away.

jaybs said...


I don't fully agree with your assessment of those that vote for Barack Obama, are you trying to say that white collar workers do not think about politics.

In fact yesterday's (Tuesday 12 February)breakdown of demographics of voters is showing that for Obama it is developing all the time over a very wide coverage of all demographic groups and no longer limited, while Hilary's is mainly women, often over 60 and lower paid workers.

The communications campaign for Barack (which I have studied and followed for three years) is a perfect political model. If only one of the major UK parties could use this as a template, then we may get young people more interested in politics.

Darren G Lilleker said...

Hi Matt,
You may be right about Edwards as VP, it may perhaps assuage some of the fears of the waverers. Not sure about how cohesive the baby boomers are and you should almost guarantee the bible belt states will go Republican (but will they vote McCain with his stance on abortion.

Hi John,
Traditionally the majority of those with lower education do not think deeply about political issues but can be swayed more by image. Obama's rhetorical style and charisma seems designed to appeal to groups that have emotional reactions to political communication and campaigning rather than those who weigh up issues and policy options.

I think Blair had a very similar style way back when he first became leader. He became a symbolic leader which masked the fact that the changes he would make were uncontroversial and locked into Conservative spending plans.

It appeals to those dissatisfied with the current state of things but do not want to consider what sort of change they want. So the person who says change enough and presents the best image has an edge. It is perhaps unfair to judge Obama just yet though, as this is still the race to be nominee and not president; that is when more substance should emerge one would hope.

That's my take - what do you think?