Messages don't matter (much)
Political scientists Norm Ornstein and Alan Abramovitz round up some myths about midterm elections. Here's No. 3:
The president's message is crucial.
In fact, his message has little effect on midterm elections. If voters are unhappy with the president and the economy is bad, even a great communicator such as Reagan can do little to prevent significant losses by his party. The same is true for presidential advisers. Karl Rove looked like a genius in 2002 because Bush was still enjoying strong public approval in the aftermath of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks. Four years later, in 2006, Rove didn't look so smart when voters took out their dissatisfaction with the president and the Iraq war on Republican congressional candidates.
Of course, some individual seats will always be affected by the president's message. And in a year when the difference between Democrats losing 35 or 40 House seats is the difference between having Speaker Nancy Pelosi or Speaker John Boehner, every district matters. But overall, there is probably little that Obama can say or do in the next couple of months to change the broad outcome of this year's elections. The die has already been cast.
From political consultants to campaign reporters and communications directors, Washington is home to a vast industry of people whose livelihoods rely on the idea that "message" is a crucial component of winning elections. And it's true, of course, that if President Obama decides to focus his campaign advertising on a program of forced sterilization for law-abiding Christians, that would have an impact on the election. But when the choice is between the message crafted by political professionals and the changes to that message suggested by other political professionals, it's not going to make a big difference at the polls.
August 16, 2010; 10:01 AM ET
Categories: Political Science
Save & Share: Previous: Column: The GOP thinks health-care reform costs too much. So why are they trying to repeal all the cost controls?
Next: Score one for wheat
Posted by: Patrick_M | August 16, 2010 10:14 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: MosBen | August 16, 2010 11:13 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: Patrick_M | August 16, 2010 11:31 AM | Report abuse
Posted by: MosBen | August 16, 2010 12:18 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: Patrick_M | August 16, 2010 12:47 PM | Report abuse
Posted by: bjrubble | August 16, 2010 3:49 PM | Report abuse