Saturday, August 30, 2008

Learning from the enemy

Andrew Grice has the latest in a long series of articles on the theme of 'what can Labour/Gordon Brown learn from Obama'?

But in terms of campaigning strategy, Labour has far more to learn from the Republican Party, as an incumbent party, trailing in the polls, and with most people thinking that the country is on the wrong track. Instead of moping around, feeling sorry for themselves or playing Faction Wars, the Republicans have been doing their very best to maximise their chances of winning the election. Three examples:

1. The Republican Party is badly split on policy issues. So the McCain campaign has worked to unite them by reminding them of the greater enemy with some absolutely ferocious attacks on Obama.

2. They realised that the Conventional Wisdom about one of the top issues that Americans were worried about was wrong. In response to the rising cost of travelling by car, they picked a clear, simple to understand message about what they would do about it (drill for oil and gas offshore). The Democrats got caught on the Complicated Side of the Argument.

3. Instead of making a boring and expected pick for Vice President, they chose someone who was new and exciting for the media, and who shares the values and beliefs of the Republican base.

The choice of Palin, as with the adoption of the policy about drilling and the attack adverts, is risky and might well backfire. But running a high-minded campaign, or taking the blame about high petrol prices, or picking someone like Mitt Romney, would have been 'safer' but would have guaranteed that they got defeated.


At 2:31 pm , Anonymous Alun said...

The Republicans have been better at campaigns than the Democrats since about 1972 or so (with a few notable exceptions) so that's not really a surprise.
Sometimes I think that the sheer brutality of Republican-style campaigns could never work here, then I remember quite how successful the LibDems are in local government in some areas...

At 6:36 pm , Anonymous Simon said...

If Labour are looking for promising analogies, surely the best example would be the 1988 campaign, when a lacklustre incumbent (who had served for many years under a less intelligent but more charismatic leader) managed to defeat a young, fresh and untried opponent by painting him as elitist and out-of-touch.

The problem is that Labour's attempts at this approach have been utterly witless and ineffectual to date (cf the Crewe by election)


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