Sunday, August 20, 2006

The Governor’s Race and the PR Power of Campaigning

Not one but two stories in today’s Beacon Journal about the Govenor’s race, focusing on the Strickland campaign. Front page below the fold they run an analysis piece on Strickland’s rapid response to Blackwell’s attacks on his voting record. The Local/Opinion section off-leads a dispatch from the Turnaround Ohio tour.

Both pieces show how campaigning aggressively can garner earned media (that is, media coverage not bought) for a campaign. The fronter about Ted’s counterpunch offers a study in contrasts with Kerry’s tactic of sticking fingers in ears and singing “Ni ni ni ni can’t hear you,” when the Swiftboating started. Happily, Ted has adopted a different strategy:

    The term swift-boating, as a verb, was born out of the 2004 presidential campaign, when Republicans attacked Democratic Sen. John Kerry by questioning his military service as a swift boat commander in Vietnam.

    * * *

    For Kerry, the attacks proved fatal; his campaign was slow to react and rebut the allegations.

    Strickland said slow reaction isn't a mistake his campaign would make. ``I know how to fight,'' he said.

    His campaign went about proving that on Thursday, when, less than 24 hours after the two TV ads surfaced, Strickland's camp launched a counterattack in all of Ohio's major television markets -- an ad that depicts Ohio Republicans as stern-faced characters in a scene from the 1941 Frank Capra movie, Meet John Doe.

    "We are responding in a muscular way to this negative attack,'' Strickland spokesman Keith Dailey said. "As far as we're concerned, the negative smear campaigning against Ted Strickland has been going on for some time. This is the first television attack that demands a swift and muscular response."
I’ve always contended that the real damage was not in the Swift Boat ads, but in the failure to respond. People rightly asked how they could depend on Kerry to defend them if he couldn’t/wouldn’t defend himself.

The dispatch from the campaign trial is similar to a PD piece that Jill writes up. In the Beacon the story hangs on the dual hooks that 1) Dems are campaigning hard in the reddest parts of the state and 2) They are finding friendly people who are sick of all this crap:

    In Warren County, roughly 50 Republicans had a meet-and-greet with the Democrats. Betty Davis, a Republican who organized the session, said she's been a Republican ``since sixth grade,'' but she's tired of her party's disconnect from everyday people.

    "I don't want to hear about any more indictments," said Davis, who was mayor of Mason from 1981 to 2000. "More and more Republicans in Warren are saying, `It's time for a change.' "

    She said that if the Republicans who confide in her do support Strickland, he'll get more than 40 percent of the vote in Warren County -- a pickup of about 11,000 votes for the Democrats.
Both stories run generally positive toward Strickland, though J. Ken’s camp gets its obligatory quotes in. Our friends on the Right will no doubt decry this as more media bias. I think it’s more that the Dems’ newfound moxie is in itself news.

But if papers are biased against J. Ken, he has no one but himself to blame. People opposed to Ken Blackwell aren’t just opposed; they are terrified of what his radical vision for Ohio would mean. The papers, whose continued viability depends on a stabilizing population and growing economy, may rightly be scared as well. Favoring Ted may not be about political bias, it may just be a good business decision.


Lee Hartsfeld said...

Had Kerry been elected (in fact, he was), he would have been dealing with real issues, not fabricated vitriol and slander. I'm not terribly concerned about how well or not well he reacted to a highly-organized smear that flew in the face of his courageous combat record. Also, it was clear Kerry couldn't win for losing--if he stood up, he was being defensive. If he took the high road, he was being a wimp. Perceptions being more important than reality in our mass-mediated land, Kerry's fate was sealed. Yet, for all that, he DID win.

We kind of forget that, sometimes.

People are concerned about Blackwell's "radical vision for Ohio"? I invite you to ask the average Ohio voter what he or she thinks of an alleged impending theocracy, and he or she will likely say, "A what?" We need to be more in tune with what the public thinks if we want to start winning some elections. Reaching out to the people means giving priority to THEIR values and conerns. And perceptions. Over ours. And the general public doesn't see rule by Bible on the horizon (neither do I). We campaign with the public, or they reward us at the polls with a vote for the other side.


Dave Hickman said...

You AND Strickland should be demanding this INSTEAD of marginalizing people you tagged as being "stolen election guys."

You're certainly not being even close to the genius you try to portray yourself as... Quit acting so ignorant regarding voting rights and election fraud. Seventy-seven percent of Columbus Dispatch readers that were polled agree with me... not you Scott Piepho.

Even Lou Dobbs of CNN agrees with the type of information you have blocked me from sharing with the readers of your blog.

Scott, the people you tag as "stolen election guys" are MUCH more organized and accurate than you have been giving us credit for.

I don't care if you like me personally. I don't care if you agree with my methods for delivering information. But I DO care when you disrespect the people who have worked EXTREMELY hard to bring-out truths that you consistantly denied could exist.

Come clean, apologize and cut the BS so we can actually do more to ensure that Blackwell doesn't steal another election in Ohio.

Or continue to antagonize good people along with Bryan Clark, Russell Hughlock, Tim Russo, Eric Vessell's and George Nemeth.

But do so at your own risk, the Democratic Party needs progressives more than progressives need moderate establishment do-nothing party hacks who have been losing statewide elections for the last 16 years.

ambercat said...

I don't think Blackwell's "radical vision for Ohio" begins and ends with installing Biblical law, although that is part of it, and people ARE aware of it, although they may call it "imposing your religious beliefs on me," not "theocracy."

But I think for a lot of people that "radical vision" more importantly includes hamstringing government at all levels by returning money to the wealthy while eliminating essential services and continuing the corruption that has made Ohio one of the most expensive states to do business with the government in. And the general public sees massive job loss and Blackwell with no plan to combat it, other than the empty "cut taxes" which most can see has been a complete failure on a national level. And many, many people in this state are anxious about the cost of health care, something Blackwell has never even deigned to address.

I agree with you about Kerry's response, Lee. It's easy now to say he chose the wrong one. But people forget at the time that an equally large contingent was telling him it was better to be above the fray and not call attention to these attacks and give them publicity. I think he, like many of us who knew how baseless they were, figured the media would quickly uncover who was behind them and what their motivation was (as I did in May of that year with 15 minutes of Googling) and cover the story fairly. They didn't. But polling showed that Kerry's response may truly have been the right one, as far as he could see. They showed that voters perceived KERRY as being slightly more negative even though an actual cataloguing of commercials aired at that point found t hat about 75% of bush's were negative and only around 25% of Kerry's.

Can't win for losing indeed.

Lee Hartsfeld said...


Thanks for the Kerry background--I didn't know he'd been deceived like that. I'm not one to place absolute faith in polls, but now I'm even more wary. That was a dirty trick for the ages....


Pho said...

Lee and Amber:

Much as I'd like to debate the Kerry debacle, let's leave it at "Lessons learned: always counterpunch."

As for my reference to Blackwell's radical agenda, I was thinking more about economic policy than social policy. People are worried about that.

As for his social policy, people might not agree with the term "theocracy," but I'm at least hearing field reports of Republicans and Independents who are concerned that Blackwell doesn't respect church/state relations.

Pho said...


Let's remember the history, Dave. I banned you from this blog because you tried to use my blog to slander someone who wasn't part of the discussion. Just to reaffirm that this was about your conduct here and not the substance of your, er, "arguments," I'm leaving your last post up, but that's it. You're done here.

As for your irritation that I won't let you preach to my audience, I've said this before:



redhorse said...

I wanted to let this be, but I can't.

Kerry was a damn fool for not responding to the Swiftboaters. The campaign continued its eerie silence even after the national media began to question why he was silent. Then it became the story, "Where's Kerry? Why doesn't he respond?"

The GOP had already labeled him a flip-flopper, and successfully so. Now he also looked either like a waffler or craven. Take your pick, neither are good.

While that stupidly planned quiet period in August leading up the GOP convention was the supposed excuse, doing nothing made him look guilty. At least in politics, the time for not responding and taking the highroad has long past. Now, doing so presumes guilt.

Kerry left 13M in his presidential account, more than enough to have worked a strong campaign for those two pivotal weeks in August.

The campaign was lost in the those two weeks. Period.

Lee Hartsfeld said...

"Doing nothing made him look guilty." To whom? The burden of proof rests with those who level a charge, not with the person being charged. If any accusation, no matter how baseless, has the power to bring down a candidate, how can we blame the candidate?

"At least in politics, the time for not responding and taking the highroad has long past. Now, doing so presumes guilt." Well, Bush and Cheney were never told this. Or a zillion other Repubs who routinely get away with not answering questions and charges. They refuse, and that's that. Meanwhile, Dems are guilty until proven innocent.