Archive for December 29, 2011

The Iowa blitz: A college admissions perspective

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Kent Barnds, our friend at Augustana College, is the Vice President of Enrollment, Communication and Planning. He supervises our college’s admissions recruitment efforts; in his former position, he ran this operation directly. So, as a registered Republican in Iowa, Kent has a unique take on how his fellow Iowans receive the deluge of media appeals from prospective presidential candidates in advance of the January 3rd caucuses.

He recently blogged on the experience, from his unique perspective, for The Washington Post. The Denizens share that piece with you. It’s an intriguing look at political marketing from the perspective of someone who is both the target audience and a perpetrator of not dissimilar marketing strategies. Enjoy!

 

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In recent years, it has become trendy for college presidents to temporarily live in a residence hall to gain insight into what their students experience and, on occasion, to develop a degree of sympathy for their short-term neighbors.

In the last few weeks, I feel like I have accidentally stumbled upon a similar experience: I am an enrollment professional at Augustana College, a small liberal arts college in Illinois. And I am a registered Republican living in Iowa who is on the receiving end of hard-core — at times really annoying and inconvenient — recruiting by virtually every candidate seeking the nomination of the Republican Party.

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A “War on Christmas?” Context, please!

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As part of his late-inning effort to capture the attention of cultural conservative voters in Iowa, Rick Perry provided an ad that received both media attention and the response of perturbed progressive opponents, fellow Republicans concerned about the anti-gay strategy, and internet parody producers.

The ad proclaimed his proud Christian identity, asserted that military service by gay persons is a problem, and attacked President Obama’s “war on religion.” Part of this attack was a perennial mainstay of cultural conservative angst during the Yuletide season: “there’s something wrong in this country when . . . kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas.”

This parry by Perry against an allegedly pernicious “War on Christmas” was preceded this holiday season by media cultural warrior Bill O’Reilly, as well as the cast of Fox and Friends, whose annual protestations were met by The Daily Show’s Jon Stewart with a predictably satirical response.

 

The FOX News diatribes have included concerns, for instance, that the National Christmas Tree outside the Capitol isn’t sufficiently Christian, despite the historical context (ironically reported by FOX News) that the Christmas tree tradition isn’t even Christian in the first place.

This year, Perry isn’t the only one leveraging the political value of Christmas, as recent ads from Newt Gingrich and Ron Paul illustrate.  Perry’s ad, however, is the only one in this presidential year to explicitly allege a “war” on religion, and implicitly allege a “war on Christmas.” Since we are once again in a time when our holiday season intersects with a high-profile campaign season, and in what I believe is in the true spirit of a defense of Christmas, I offer an essay co-written a few years back by myself and my friend and colleague Michele Ramsey from Penn State University—Berks Campus, which contextualizes the so-called “War on Christmas” in a way usually absent from the media coverage of this so-called controversy.

Merry Christmas – and Happy Holidays – to you and yours from the Political Denizens.

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Factcheck.org’s Biggest Whoppers of 2011

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Just in time for Christmas (and the Iowa caucuses), the Annenberg Pubic Policy Center’s Factcheck.org presents its “Whoppers of 2011,” what they describe as “the year’s worst political deceptions, from both sides.”  Here’s their summary, as a teaser:

 

 

Despite what you may have heard in 2011:

  • The new health care law won’t cost many jobs (and they’ll be poorly paying jobs at that).
  • Republicans aren’t proposing to “end” Medicare (and Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden has signed onto a modified version of the GOP plan).
  • Most of the “millionaires” who would pay higher tax rates under a Democratic proposal aren’t job-creating small-business owners.
  • President Obama’s mother didn’t really fight to get health insurance coverage as she was dying.

And there was plenty more spin and deception in 2011. Obama claimed he pays a lower tax rate than a teacher. Michele Bachmann endorsed a claim that HPV vaccine causes mental retardation. Joe Biden claimed rapes quadrupled in Flint, Mich., after police layoffs. And that’s just some of the nonsense we debunked.

For our full run-down of the worst political whoppers we encountered during the year, please read on to the Analysis section. And get ready for more in the presidential election year that is about to begin.

Definitely worth a peek, courtesy of the best nonpartisan fact-checking researchers in the biz.

Juice: Perceptions of Power between Presidents and Congress

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Time and time again, I speak to my students about the importance of the perception of power to the institution of the Presidency.  The Founders of the United States never intended for Presidents or the overall institution of the Presidency to have the power and influence that is seen in the modern presidency.  Presidents and leaders in Congress have to manipulate perceptions of power as they approach election season.  Sometimes when I engage in discussions on these issues I talk to students about “juice.”

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Debates: Discourse for Citizenship, or Televisual Tactic?

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The Denizens took their students to Springfield, Illinois earlier this month to visit the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum, as well as selected Lincoln historic sites.It gave us a great opportunity to examine the intersection of institutional politics and public communication in the historic work of perhaps the iconic American president. Among the episodes of Lincoln’s mythic history that are highlighted in Springfield is the rivalry between Lincoln and Stephen Douglas, the “Little Giant” who bested the “Big Giant” in the 1858 US Senate race but lost to him in the 1860 presidential campaign. The seven 1858 Lincoln-Douglas debates over “popular sovereignty” and the extension of slavery into US territories were an epic political circus at the time, launched Lincoln into the national spotlight, and became the historic archetype for debate as a component of campaign discourse.

Flash-forward fifty-three years, and we observe a pair of provocative phenomena: a candidate for president using debate challenges as a game of political chicken with opponents, and media pundits pondering whether a debate-driven campaign is actually valuable. What’s going on?

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Ron Paul, Media Framing Victim?

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So, the big news coming out of Iowa over the weekend was a new poll that puts Newt Gingrich as the frontrunner in the GOP nomination race for the caucuses, which will be held January 3rd, with Mitt Romney dropping to third place.  A key element to this story is Romney’s “slide” into third place.  What doesn’t seem to be discussed: the surge of iconoclastic GOP candidate Ron Paul in the face of declines by Herman Cain and Rick Perry.

My friend Eric Ostermeier at Smart Politics provides another insightful media content analysis that reveals a key part of Paul’s inability to capitalize on this good fortune. Check this out… if I were Paul’s camp, I’d be furious:

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Will Cain endorse Gingrich? Hints from Twitter.

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OK, so Herman Cain just announced the suspension of his presidential campaign. That was pretty predictable (despite moves in recent days that seemed to confuse this predictability). Perhaps less predictable, given that he pledged to stay in the race the day after the Ginger White allegations went public, is that, in his remarks today, he announced that he would endorse another candidate “in the near future.” Who will it be? The smart money is on Newt Gingrich. There are many reasons to think so, but the immediate one that comes to mind was tweeted just moments after Cain’s announcement.

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Change Is… Obama’s New Tactic

President Obama has begun using a variation on his "Change" slogan, "Change Is..."

President Obama has begun using a variation on his "Change" slogan, "Change Is..."

Recently President Obama has rolled out his new campaign tagline, “Change Is…”  Obama is making an attempt to answer questions from the opposite side of the political spectrum.  Many conservatives have been known to ask “Where is the Change?”  This is a trend that began very shortly after President Obama took office.  It will be very interesting to see how much traction the new “Change Is” approach will get and if it will catch on with supporters and later with the wider electorate.  An example of Obama’s new tactic comes across much more pro-active than previous mentions of his own record, “Change is the decision we made to rescue the auto company from collapse, even when some politicians were saying we should let Detroit go bankrupt.”  Instead of running from actions and decisions that seemed absolutely necessary when being undertaken, he is pointing out how bold they may be considered.

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Follow the Ad Money!

The Washington Post just started a new featured resource: “Mad Money,” where the reader can “watch the latest campaign ads in the 2012 presidential race and track ad spending during the primaries and general election.”

The Denizens will be following this site regularly… you should too! To help, we’ve added it to our blogroll on the right-side menu on your screen.

“Mitt vs. Mitt,” Fact Checked

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The Democratic National Committee let GOP presidential contender Mitt Romney have it yesterday with a new 4 minute web video entitled “Mitt vs. Mitt,” intended to cast aspersions on his trustworthiness as a public policy flip-flopper, borrowing heavily from the Bush-Cheney 2004 anti-John Kerry playbook. Perhaps predicting that Romney is the true eventual nominee, the DNC ad attacks Romney where he’s most vulnerable: in distrust among many, especially conservatives in his own party, that he places ephemeral political expedience before principle in his shifting policy positions.

First, here’s the ad:

Ever the intrepid defender of accuracy over b.s., the Annenberg Public Policy Center’s Factcheck.org released an analysis of the DNC ad that identifies a host of distortions of Romney’s public statements and positions. What did they come up with?

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