January 10, 2008

Politic Balling

Yes, the baseball metaphors come so naturally to American politics and right now it's quite clear that Barak Obama is your classic homerun hitter. When he connects (Iowa) he hits it well out of the park. He must have still been admiring that shot when New Hampshire rolled around and of course he struck out.

Clinton in contrast is that classic small ball player. Working all out, day in and day out, at the plate, on the field and off. While Obama was admiring his inflated poll numbers and resting for his victory speach she and her team were out trying everything they could to stay in contention. The Hillary Hustle if you will.

The obligatory irony came when the news media was completely shocked at her victory in New Hampshire. Ironic because the press clearly played a huge role in it, yet completely failed to recognize it. Despite the poll numbers for Obama, Hillary absolutely dominated the press coverage in the final days before the NH primary. Nothing huge, no grand slams, no home runs even, just lots of singles. Lots of little bits of coverage, almost crying, Bill bitching to the media, Hillary defending herself at the debates, possible campaign shake ups. She stayed in the game, kept hitting, kept playing defense. Obama was getting anointed king for a second, yet it was Hillary getting all the media coverage.

The media missed this story, because it wasn't them writing it, they just typed it up. It was a classic campaign straight out of Karl Rove's playbook. Stay in focus, but stay moving, keep the articles coming and keep them coming fast enough that the press only has enough time to report, not reflect. The press has never loved Bush, nor do they Hillary, and when they stay still they wind up getting beat upon. But when they stay moving, keep creating newsworthy events, then they stay in focus anyhow. They stay the center of attention and that makes them powerful.

The press overall loves Barak Obama, he's got a natural advantage in the media game, that stuff they call charisma. But the news is a 24 hour, seven days a week operation and charisma alone just won't cut it. If you want to stay in focus you need to keep creating "news". Rove clearly understands it, and Hillary's team... well they might not quite understand it, but they've been around long enough to know most of the tricks.

Marketing as a thing practically began with BT Barnum's "any publicity is good publicity" quote. Everyone in the business has heard that said far too many times, but not enough take it seriously. For good reason, it's clearly not actually true. There is such a thing as bad publicity, and when it's bad like Howard Dean's infamous scream, it's truly bad stuff indeed. But what many of the candidates seem to miss is that half-bad publicity isn't bad at all, but in fact as Barnum new, quite good. In New Hampshire Hillary Clinton took a string of half bad pr events and ensured that all media eyes stayed on her. She didn't do anything great, not even anything half special, but she stayed working gave it her all and came out on top in the ballot box. That's political small ball at it's finest and if Obama and his team want to stay in the game they're going to need to learn to play along.

Posted by Abe at January 10, 2008 09:48 AM

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)