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Can you see the messaging effect?

Over the past month or two, Democrats tried a variety of new messaging strategies to shake up the election. President Obama became, at least for a time, more partisan and confrontational in an effort to fire up the base. Secret money and the Chamber of Commerce became dominant themes in the Democratic argument. And to what end?

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You can't run the counterfactual here, of course. Maybe other messages would've lost ground for the Democrats. Maybe the perfect combination of communication strategies would've secured more statistically significant improvements. But I doubt it.

In an environment where both parties have highly paid strategists running endless focus groups and polls, neither is likely to really outmaneuver the other in the "what voters want to hear" category. Outside events -- something happens in the world, or in a race -- can shake things up, and ground game can help at the margins, but that's about it. The problem is, outside events aren't controlled by campaigns and ground games are largely invisible until the day of the election. So all eyes are on the messages because, well, that's all there is to look at.

By Ezra Klein  | October 26, 2010; 9:30 AM ET
Categories:  2010 Midterms  
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Comments

It looks like it did something, even if it's not significant to 95% (ie, maybe there's a 1 in 5 chance this is just noise) but more likely than not there was a real shift, and 2-3 points in turnout will certainly swing a few races.

Posted by: _SP_ | October 26, 2010 9:47 AM | Report abuse

So, how many Democrats are running on increasing the deficit to create jobs (like FDR) and how many are running on balancing the budget and praising the status quo (like Hoover)?

I know: it's naive to think that doing the right thing is better than doing what the Village wants.

Posted by: stonedone | October 26, 2010 10:21 AM | Report abuse

One element of the ground game that may have tipped the balance in favor of Obama in swing states, Virginia specifically, was the drive to register college students and get them out to vote. Alas for the Democrats, it's now two years later and half of those college students have graduated and disbursed. And it takes a lot of organization to get new students who arrive on campus in September registered and to the polls in early November.

Posted by: bgmma50 | October 26, 2010 10:32 AM | Report abuse

Secret Money and the Chamber of Commerce (intake breath sharply) was pretty lame stuff coming from the darlings of AFSCME and Soros.

Posted by: bgmma50 | October 26, 2010 10:42 AM | Report abuse

I think you might have seen that message change as being more pronounced than it actually was because you're a political journalist. I didn't notice a change in message at all. Obama certainly didn't do anything to get the press's attention in any meaningful way.

But I do agree with you that if he had gotten the press' attention, even then, a month's worth of fiery rhetoric isn't going to change anything. If he had kept this message for his entire first two years, then I think we could make a better assessment of whether it was a good message or not.

Posted by: zperez | October 26, 2010 11:25 AM | Report abuse

It looks to me like the Democratic position improved by 2-4 points over the last month. That isn't huge but it hardly seems grounds to argue that the messaging is ineffective.

Perhaps it is just that your expectations are unrealistic?

Posted by: zosima | October 26, 2010 1:51 PM | Report abuse

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