SixFifty

lessons from America

Brown’s Palin moment

BBC One’s 1 o’clock news nicked my phrase.   I had been using it a few hours earlier in a phone call to a friend to describe Gordon Brown’s decision to bring Peter Mandelson back into the Cabinet.  Then suddenly it’s on TV.  To be fair, for us political junkies it was a fairly obvious observation: that this was Brown’s ‘Palin moment’, where he tries to pull off the same kind of stunt that McCain did when he surprised everyone and picked Sarah Palin as his running mate.  The idea is simple: to gain days of favourable press coverage which simply focuses on what a surprise the decision was, and which reinforces conventional wisdom about being a courageous, decisive, (and in McCain’s case maverick) leader.  Then you get several more days of positive coverage examining the actual pick itself and why it was such a good idea. 

And so far its working to some degree.  Witness first of all Nick Robinson’s “gobsmacked” reaction and Martha Keaney’s astonishment; the leads on Friday evening’s news programmes; then today’s editorial in The Guardian and the main comment piece in The Independent amongst other exhibits.   The Mirror and The Sun both use the words “shock return” in their headlines.  But the UK media works differently than their US counterparts, and are certainly less deferential and (some of the time) less easily fed a line. The Times today sounds a more sceptical note, and The Telegraph is hostile.

Whichever way the news cycle ends up playing it, the strategy from both McCain and Brown has its risks as well as its rewards.  There is one interesting difference though in the thinking behind the choices: Palin energises the Republican base and tends to turn off independents / undecideds; Mandelson could well do the reverse and strengthen Labour’s appeal to the centre whilst upsetting rank-and-file members.

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October 4, 2008 Posted by | global perspective, lessons from America | , , , , | Leave a comment

States that split matter

So we have McCain pulling out of actively campaigning in Michigan.  And some of his staff and resources from that state are believed to have gone not just to the well-known swing states but to Maine as well. DemConWatch notes:

“Yesterday Matt wrote about how McCain is going to focus on winning one of Maine’s Electoral votes by sinking more money into the state. The other state that awards Electoral Votes by district is Nebraska and the Obama campaign isn’t conceding. Today the Obama campaign announced that they will open a second office in Omaha. Nebraska’s 2nd congressional district, which includes Omaha and its suburbs, is considered by some to be a “battleground district“.”

Maybe we will have more states, especially the smaller ones, in future following Maine and Nebraska’s lead and dividing their electoral college votes by district; if only to get a piece of the election action. The old statewide winner takes all system maybe isn’t the best suited any more.  There’s also a decent case for looking more closely at the National Popular Vote scheme that has been proposed, and backed by a number of states.

October 4, 2008 Posted by | 50 State strategy | , , , , | 2 Comments