Tag Archives: Politico

For Hillary Clinton, it’s Deja Crazy Vu.

déjà vu |ˌdāZHä ˈvo͞oo|
a feeling of having already experienced the present situation.

As the adroit Ron Fournier points out on Twitter, when it comes to the Clintons it’s always someone else’s fault.

Sometimes, it’s the voters. This time, right on schedule, it’s the consultants.

On the eve of the New Hampshire primary, we’re hearing a Clinton staff shakeup is on the way. Sound familiar? It should.

Clinton’s 2016 campaign is following an eerily similar path to that of her ill-fated 2008 bid for the presidency. Devastating and embarrassing early shortcomings (Iowa in 2008, and polling indicates a 2016 blowout is coming in New Hampshire) followed by internal recriminations.

As Glenn Thrush of Politico has reported, the Clintons are mad as hell and they’re not going to take it any more. Maybe they should adopt Donald Trump’s theme song, because like Twisted Sister they’re telling their staff “if that’s your best your best won’t do” and ordering another purge.

In 2008, Clinton sacked her campaign manager and shook up the staff after losing in Iowa to a skilled novice and an experienced maggot. Here we are again, eight years later – almost to the day – and it’s second verse, same as the first: an underperforming campaign that doesn’t connect with voters embarrassed by an outsider they “didn’t see coming.”

2008: Angry candidate blames staff. 2016: Rinse, repeat.

This wasn’t supposed to happen. Clinton played it smart this time. She hired those wily Obama veterans who beat her in 2008 to run this race. Genius! She would have a bionic campaign, rebuilt… better, stronger, faster.

Not so much. It might be a bionic campaign, but it’s the same candidate. And that’s the rub with voters.

There are many parallels between the brands with which I work and the politicians with which I used to work. One of the biggest is that a great product solves a lot of problems, but a bad one brings problems to the surface with a vengeance.

Barack Obama was a great candidate. He made everything from organizing to digital to fundraising to messaging easier. But when you go to market with a product the market doesn’t like, it’s hard. You can have expensive ads, the best space on the shelf, great technology… and still fail.

Hillary Clinton was likable enough. But to paraphrase Lloyd Bentsen, she’s no Barack Obama.

Clinton’s people couldn’t sell her then. Obama’s people can’t sell her now. No one is warming up in the bullpen – Joe Biden has left to find a cure for Cancer, an easier job than selling candidate Clinton to voters – and the Democratic party is staring down the reality of watching a second Clinton campaign crumble, this time humiliated by a 74 year old self-declared Socialist from Vermont.

We opened with a definition and we close with a quote:

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. – Albert Einstein.

Those crazy Clintons. Here they go again.

Three States or Four Screens? Welcome to the New Presidential Primary.

Carly in IAOnce upon a time, running for president was arguably confined to a Three State exercise. You gathered endorsements, knocked on doors, stood on flatbeds and made speeches in Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina.

Not anymore.

Today running for president requires a Four Screen Strategy. TV, Desktop, Tablet and Mobile.

The endorsement of a local figure is less powerful than that of a popular blogger who might live thousands of miles away. Candidates knock on many more email inboxes than doors for a fraction of the cost.

And voters don’t have to brave the cold or the rain to see a full-length speech from a political candidate. We can watch live on CNN, Fox News Channel or MSNBC from the warm cocoons of our living rooms. Missed the moment? No worries. you are a YouTube click away from all the speeches you want, such as this glorious rant from Donald Trump last night.

Screen Shot 2015-11-13 at 1.15.50 PMThe speech was made in Fort Dodge, Iowa, but it could have been made in Fort Worth, Texas or Fort Deposit, Alabama and had the same impact in our Three States. Thanks to our Four Screens, the latest Trump De Force will reverberate far beyond 1500 Iowa eyewitnesses. Voters in New Hampshire, South Carolina and other early primary states awoke this morning to Facebook pages, Twitter feeds and Email Inboxes with All Caps messages from friends and influencers across the country. “OMG you have to watch,” “LOL at Trump” and “Trump WTF” was splashed across our screens with links to video of the speech and stories, tweets and commentary framing it.

A recent Pew Research study confirms the Four Screen phenomenon. Attending campaign events, once a staple of American politics, is becoming less relevant. Voters were more than twice as likely to report they followed a candidate on social media than to say they’d attended a campaign event – young voters five times more likely.

Voters also report declines in campaign contacts from printed mail, home visits, prerecorded and live calls, with an increase in only one area – E-Mail. And while slightly fewer voters reported seeing a TV ad, the TV Screen is still king, far outpacing other forms of direct contact in reaching voters.

More and more voters are following candidates on social media for more than interesting and relevant content. Voters increasingly say “it helps me find out about political news before other people do.” This means voters aren’t just following the campaigns and forming an opinion. They are becoming “micro opinion leaders,” socializing shareable content such as videos, polls, stories, lists and analysis from sites like Politico, RealClearPolitics and Independent Journal Review so they can advocate and influence the views and votes of others.

This is why smart campaigns are investing time and dollars in creating their own shareable digital content and mastering the technology necessary deliver it to Four Screen primary voters. As Nicholas Carr noted in a recent Politico Magazine story:

Ted Cruz live-streams his appearances on Periscope. Marco Rubio broadcasts “Snapchat Stories” at stops along the trail. Hillary Clinton and Jeb Bush spar over student debt on Twitter. Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham produce goofy YouTube videos. Even grumpy old Bernie Sanders has attracted nearly two million likers on Facebook, leading the New York Times to dub him “a king of social media.”

The job of the modern campaign is not only to deliver message to audience. It is to empower the audience to become an army of evangelists for your candidate, equipping them with the sharpest implements of modern day digital and social advocacy to help them shape and win the online conversation.

We still count votes in those three states, and their scoreboards have power to change momentum and drive the broader race. But the campaigns with the most powerful Four Screen Strategies are the ones lighting those scoreboards up with votes.

P.S. – As a Friday bonus, here is a really great cover of Ramblin’ Man by the Miller Brothers.  Thanks to Larry Williams at TigerIllustrated.com for sharing it this morning.

Why Trump Might Win.

The new Politico Caucus survey of insiders from Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina is in.  The “politicos” on the ground in those states all agree.  Donald Trump has a real and significant chance to become the Republican nominee.

I participated in that survey, and I put his chance at 30%. When I share this view with establishment Republicans and some DC insiders, the expressions range from anger to disbelief to a kind but piteous look that suggests that perhaps the men in the white coats should come and take me away to a safe and comfortable place where I would be at no risk of causing harm to society or to my person.

I bet a lot of democrats who had the guts to say, early in 2008, “you know Obama just might win” got that same look too. That’s because it is increasingly obvious that Obama and Trump have something in common.  On the road to the White House, both looked up one day and found that they were not just running campaigns, they were leading causes.

Make no mistake, Trump is running a campaign and it is a strong one, better in many ways than the more traditional campaigns of his opponents.  Trump has built a sizeable and deep campaign infrastructure in the early primary states. These organizations are led not by cranky volunteer types who just stick up yard signs and stir the pot, but seasoned political veterans (such as Ed McMullen and Jim Merrill in South Carolina) who know how to win elections.

All of the elements of a great campaign are present.  Trump has a brand.  He has iconography in the form of the ubiquitous red hat.  A Reaganesque slogan in “Make America Great Again.” A battle cry in a song, “We’re Not Gonna Take it Anymore.”  And, if he elects to reach under the mattress at Trump Tower, he has more than enough resources to keep the music playing as long as it takes.  I can explain Trump’s campaign in 15 seconds. I’m not sure I can explain any of the others in 15 minutes.

It is working because Trump has a base.  Secular, more moderate, working class voters who believe they are being left behind by the globalization of both our economy and our culture. These people form the basis of the cause.

Sure, they’ve been around ever since economic globalization has been an issue. They were Reagan Democrats, or Perot voters, or Pat Buchanan supporters.  But changes in our economy and culture have been occurring at a lightning pace these last four years, and these voters fear that America is in danger of irreversibly becoming not only something they do not recognize, but a place in which they no longer belong.

These folks are not hard to find. During the week, they work shifts on the factory floor to support their families. They cheer their kids on Friday night at the High School football game.  On Saturday they line Main street for the Veteran’s Day parade or attend local festivals and events. On Sunday morning they may be in church, but you might just as easily find them up in a tree stand, down in a duck blind or out in a bass boat.  So when Trump comes to South Carolina and mentions trade, immigration, support for our vets, gun rights and Clemson football, people shouldn’t be stunned when an auditorium of thousands of people roar with approval.

Not long ago, these people were celebrated as the backbone of America. But today, they get the impression they are a malignant tumor that a wealthy, educated class of new American elites would excise and discard. They are not just disrespected, but in some circles mocked, “flyover” people whose values and way of life are not only irrelevant, but distasteful.

The irony that a chauffeur driven New York billionaire has given voice to their concerns is not lost.  But Trump has spoken of their concerns with more clarity and strength than any voice they’ve heard echo their thoughts since Reagan.

In politics, causes beat campaigns.  Causes prompt sold out venues, more volunteers than you can assign tasks, and political outcomes that defy traditional measurement and conventional wisdom.

Trump, perhaps unwittingly, finds himself the leader of that cause.  If he can stay in front of the pack, and grow his vote, that cause may carry him to a heretofore unthinkable victory.

The CNN Debate – Winners & Losers

UPDATE:  I’ll be on Al Jazeera America Tonight on a great program called Inside Story. It airs at 11:30pm EST.  The Host, Ray Suarez, is a former PBS/NewsHour veteran and a seasoned and accomplished journalist. These appearances are always thoughtful and insightful conversations.  There is a link to a prior appearance here. To see if you can get the show, there is a channel finder here

Tonight, on a stage crowded with strong men, they were led by a woman.

Carly Fiorina won this debate. Marco Rubio came in second.

Together they demonstrated the combination of depth and passion that Republicans will need to take back the White House next year.

For voters who want a fighter, an outsider and a leader, she checks all the boxes. And she has the greatest gift you can have in marketing – she’s different.

I would give her one piece of counsel – a little less intensity, and a smile every now and then would be a nice touch.  But tonight proved to Republicans that if she can take on a room full of tough men, she can surely hold her own with Hillary Clinton.

Fiorina is now likely to vault to the first tier of candidates and may be about to take a polling rocket ride. The next question she’ll have to answer is, can she sustain her orbit?  Can she continue to soar or, like so many others in presidential politics, does she lose trajectory and plummet back to Earth.

Marco Rubio had a great night. He reminded voters of all the qualities that he has that terrify the Clinton camp: strength, depth, youth, energy, his natural diversity and the power of his personal story.

Ted Cruz also had a good night. He is a master debater. He picked his spots in areas of strength – Planned Parenthood, Iran and judges – and laid back at other times where the issues didn’t cut to his advantage.  He was smart to pick his spots.

Christie and Kasich and even Rand Paul had moments, but it didn’t feel as though they did anything to fundamentally change their position.

The other big story of the night was the disappearing act of Donald Trump. The debate format clearly showed he is lacking not only in decorum, but depth. Other than on the issue of immigration, he was either reactive or unheard. Tonight the curtain was pulled back and we saw the Wizard of Oz for what he was, a shallow salesman who was all sizzle but no substance.

This debate also may have spelled the beginning of the end for Scott Walker. His debate was a microcosm of his entire campaign. He started early with high hopes, by taking on Trump and scoring early points. But by the end of the debate we were asking the same question we are asking tonight about his campaign: “Where did he go?”

On a final note, it’s also worth nothing that tonight demonstrated that the GOP has a deep bench and a bright future. My party has a lot of intriguing and diverse faces like Florina, Rubio, Cruz and Carson.  The party is in good hands going forward.

UPDATE:  A few more thoughts in Politico HERE and thanks to Mike Allen for the mention in Politico Playbook HERE.  Also shared a few Scott Walker thoughts HERE with the Wisconsin State Journal and I always love talking with Salena Zito, author of one of the best blogs ever, Off Road Politics HERE.  

The Face of the New South

NIkki HaleySouth Carolina Governor Nikki Haley is having quite a run of success.  She has recruited Mercedes Benz, Boeing and Volvo for economic development projects totaling thousands of jobs.  She’s been a great fiscal champion fighting for lower taxes and less spending.

new-york-times-logoThe spotlight is on her recently for her courageous call to remove the Confederate Battle Flag from the SC State House grounds following the horrific murders at Mother Emmanuel Church in my home state of Charleston, SC.  I applaud her. It wasn’t easy, and I shared some thoughts earlier with The New York Times outstanding Jonathan Martin as to how difficult an issue this is for Republicans.

Republicans Tread Carefully in Criticism of Confederate Flag

conf flag sc domeThe flag is a pretty personal issue for me and in my family.  In 1998, I lost two elections on one night because of that banner.  First, a race I was managing for the US Senate for Bob Inglis, and second SC Governor David Beasley, my brother in law, lost the governorship after calling for the flag to come down off of the Capitol Dome.  There is a reason that both men have been awarded the JFK Profile in Courage Award.  So it’s a bit of satisfaction to see those electoral sacrifices (Inglis had also courageously called for the flag’s removal) were not made in vain.

Moving the flag was the right thing to do. The symbols of state should bring people together as opposed to tearing them apart.  And moving the flag was the conservative thing to do in my view.  A limited government should waste no resources debating, flying, lighting and displaying, protecting, or otherwise maintaining a symbol that offends roughly half of the state in such a visceral, personal way.  South Carolina’s precious fiscal, intellectual and emotional resources are better invested in creating jobs and improving schools.

PoliticoWhich made me all the more happy to talk about Governor Haley, the flag and the New South with Eliza Collins from Politico.

Nikki Haley Coming to DC Amid VP Buzz