Friday, January 22, 2010

True Concessions

I only found out in my last visit to Western Mass that my son didn't understand literally or figuratively what the expression "to hold one's nose" meant or how it was an effective tool for soldiering on under squalid conditions or rising above a stench or two. It also applies to my vote this week for Martha Coakley in her historic loss to a fire-breathing majority of Commonwealth voters.

Lawn signs, local campaign offices, and rallies in the common are the more redemptive side of robocalls, negative ads, and the thunderclapping of cable political theater. I never saw a single Coakley sign and was reminded of this when Senator-elect Brown recounted seeing a homemade sign done in his honor on a truck stop through an unfamiliar town.

It is equally telling that Coakley spent the majority of her concession defending how busy her bustling team was every step on the precipitous slide from primary day to the election. We weren't complacent she seemed to be saying. We just weren't very effective. I can count on one nostril the number of Democrats I know that talked about meeting her, seeing her, or even voting for her. What us couch-fuming Baystater grumps all saw was the frontrunner taking to the air with the clock running out. Not surprisingly most of those hail Martha passes were picked off by underwhelmed Democrats who cheered the very same applause lines before the last voting cycle.

We on the receiving end witnessed dueling ads of her team's abysmal media-making. That playbook featured alternate warm, fuzzies coupled with some uppercut Brown bashing. How does that play out in real time? The following sequence holds even less merit than it does attention:

* Before ad: Who's Martha?
* Warm fuzzy: I'm warming to Martha
* Brown bash: To like Martha is to despise ... (who is he again?)
* Post Brown bash: Thanks for deciding my vote (and insulting my intelligence...)

In political consulting college they teach you that going negative only works when your base is anchored and the alienations you seed reverberate in the fears and doubts of the fence-sitters you're attempting to peel away. In the case of Brown v. Coakley the uncommitted middle were mostly brand loyal Democrats who thought little of not having voted in the primary -- let alone for Martha.

What Can Brown Do For Us?

And what of Senator Brown and his lovely daughters? In the same week that we've lost campaign finance reform, Air America, and the myth of a receding recession his unopposable punch was the assertion that Massachusetts has its own Obamacare. Why should we be bankrolling the blue dogs who held out for medicaid subsidies?

Here's another campaign fundamental they drill into hired guns in training: a negative that's not responded to becomes grounded. The corollary here is that a negative with grains of reality becomes gospel truth. That reality cuts deep enough to trip any get-out-the-vote drive lacing up its campaign boots.

Third Party Singular

Now that the fumes have settled the biggest looming gorilla in our national closet remains the non-starter third party response.

Response to what?

To our incapacity for bonding with our incumbent two parties. Truly the window is closing so fast that we're now throwing rascals out on the tops of corpses that have yet to exhume. Sharing our job insecurities with politicians is great for theatrics and impossible for enacting real change (READ: the right to bear sickness without going broke).

Certainly it's a safe bet that a fiscally conservative and socially liberal candidate from neither party could poll a solid 20% just by announcing. But the real value is that these disenfranchisees wouldn't have voted if that candidate didn't exist. The left is out for lunch. The right is out for blood. But the party I'm envisioning is not out for tea.

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attentionSpin is a consulting practice formed in 1990 to create, automate and apply a universal scoring system (“The Biggest Picture”) to brands, celebrities, events and policy issues in the public eye. In the Biggest Picture, attentionSpin applies the principles of market research to the process of media analytics to score the volume and nature of media coverage. The explanatory power of this research model: 1. Allows practitioners to understand the requirements for managing the quality of attention they receive 2. Shows influencers the level of authority they hold in forums where companies, office-seekers, celebrities and experts sell their visions, opinions and skills 3. Creates meaningful standards for measuring the success and failure of campaigns and their connection to marketable assets.