Tag Archive for Campaign 2012

Guest essay: GOP Politics and the “Little Woman” in 2012

2012 Republican National Convention: Day 2

The Political Denizens are pleased to present our first guest essay! In the wake of the 2012 party conventions, public discussions of the potential “candidates” for First Lady — Ann Romney and Michelle Obama — has featured their functions as a humanizing element for their husbands and their rhetorical emphasis on “family” as a warrant for their husbands’ values. But there is a strong and emerging scholarly literature on the political and rhetorical importance of first ladies that reveals additional insights on the potential importance of these women for presdients and the presidency.

Dr. Janis Edwards is an Associate Professor of Communication Studies at the University of Alabama. Her research interests include visual displays and gender in political candidates and campaigns. Along with graduate students Brittany Finley, Kyle Fox, Megan Herboth, and Andrew Stone, Janis comments on the rhetorical presentation of Republican presidential candidate spouses and their potential political impact. These insights should come in handy as we observe, compare and contrast the performances of Mrs. Romney and Mrs. Obama in the weeks to come.

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A post-factual convention? Part 2: Reality? We can change it.

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In a satirical debriefing of Paul Ryan’s nomination acceptance address on The Daily Show“RNC correspondent” John Oliver considers the theme of the Republican National Convention’s second night, “We Can Change It.” A slogan clearly designed as a commonplace strategic appeal in the “challenger style” of campaign rhetoric — the challenger calls for change, and argues that s/he is better than the incumbent to achieve change, Oliver takes it in a very different direction:

Oliver’s commentary not only echoes that of many media observers following Ryan’s address, but gets at a function of party convention narratives that has been a mainstay of the presidential campaign process — as least in the age of conventions as televised spectacles. An important question this year seems to be whether the GOP has risen to a new level of creativity with reality — a “post-factual” campaign, if you will, and whether the Democratic response is powerless to counteract it.  Let’s consider these points in Part 2 of the Denizen’s three-part series on the Republican National Convention, corresponding with the central theme of the convention’s second night.

 

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Our long national nightmare is over…

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We know what you’re thinking… “OK, the presidential campaign is in full swing, Paul Ryan is the Republican Veep nominee, the GOP convention has concluded and the Democratic convention is days away, the economic recovery is still slow and painful (with everyone blaming everybody else), the media fact-checkers and cable news commentators are having conniption fits… and we’re watching Clint Eastwood chastise an empty chair without a script, while you guys are nowhere to be found?”

Guilty as charged. We won’t try to put up a front — blogging can be hard when things get busy… and then the regret points start piling up (“oh, we missed this… oops, we missed that… how could we let that one get away?”). But we’ve missed the action as much as you have, so it’s time to jump back into the fray.

Labor Day traditionally is the time when political campaigns relaunch themselves, to reintroduce themselves to their fans and foes and to introduce themselves to a new set of audiences seeing them for the first time. Thus it shall be with the Political Denizens. If you are reading us for the first time, we welcome you to our citadel of Beyond the Beltway commentary from an interdisciplinary, liberal arts perspective. Please check out our intro page and find out more about us.

For our true believers, waiting anxiously for another taste, here it comes. Say tuned for a debriefing of the Republican National Convention, a guest article from Honorary Denizen Janis Edwards and her students from the University of Alabama-Tuscaloosa on GOP spouses, and more. Be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter as well, where we’ll share some of our favorite online news and blog articles.

And……… RELAUNCH!

Why did Obama win the Michigan primary?

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So what do we make of last night’s primaries in Michigan and Arizona? As in most things political, the “win” is in the eye of the beholder… and what we’re beholding is media framing and campaign spinning. As I was reading news about the races this morning, a Facebook post from my old fraternity brother Jeff Moulton caught my eye. He posted,

 

The game of political “spin” is an interesting spectator sport. For example, right now on my Yahoo news feed is the following headline – “Battered and bruised, Romney is limping toward the nomination”. Fair enough. The very next article has this for a title – “Romney roars back with two big wins.”

Hmmm… those are two rather different narratives — and it’s likely that each of the candidates, especially Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum, have one that they prefer.

Here’s one that isn’t being widely reported this morning, but I think is worth considering: Last night’s big winner was President Barack Obama. Why? Let’s check out the numbers and the spin to see why.

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When “Deal” is a Four-Letter Word

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One of the perennial realities of campaign politics is the inevitable trajectory candidates take when moving from obscure also-ran to emergent underdog to front-runner: the higher the profile, the greater the scrutiny, and the added importance of “oppo” research. Many media observers have noted, in the wake of Wednesday’s Republican presidential primary debate in Arizona, that Rick Santorum was besieged by his opponents with attacks based on his voting record in the US Senate.

The primary thrust of the charge: While campaigning as a principled, uncompromising champion of cultural conservatism, Santorum’s voting record reveals a pattern of votes on policy that contradict his avowed platform, sometimes in stark ways. This exchange from the debate provides a prime example:

In the immediate term, this problem requires Santorum to manage the apparent inconsistencies between his current rhetoric and his past record. More broadly, this is yet another example of the challenges faced by current and former members of Congress who run for the presidency — ironically, the more experience you have, the greater the paper trail from which opponents can cull decontextualized bits of business to form the basis of an attack. But for me, the most important consequence of this phenomenon is the continuing assault on collaborative negotiation and compromise that resides at the heart of deliberative democracy.

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Romney, the “Very Poor,” and American Identity

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By now, Mitt Romney’s latest interview gaffe, in which an offhand remark (well, not so offhand, see below) reveals a potential lack of empathy with regard to impoverished Americans and public policy on poverty, has captured this week’s media cycle and crackled across the blogosphere.  While you may well be familiar with this story, check out what is said, and how it is said, again — because there seems to be something a bit deeper here in Romney’s language that the media coverage of this episode seems to underplay.

 

In particular, for me the key is in the phrasing right before and after the now infamous soundbite.

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New Hampshire and Beyond: What Did the Primary Mean?

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In the hunt for the GOP presidential nomination, we have moved past the “first in the nation” contests — the Iowa caucuses and the New Hampshire primary — and are now headed toward two key “make or break” contests for the second and third tier candidates: South Carolina on January 21, and Florida on January 31. Over the past week we’ve seen the candidates put their best face on the results (except for Michele Bachmann, whose ticket out of Iowa took her back to Minnesota), and the punditocracy unpack the implications for the various candidates.

As the Denizens see it, the suspense regarding the eventual Republican nomination is over: Mitt Romney wins. There, we said it. What’s more interesting, and arguably far more important, is how the symbolic importance of the primary results and the discourse between the candidates (and between them and the media) will shape the near-term future of the Republican party, as well as the identity of Romney as a candidate going into the general election campaign.

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The Iowa Caucuses: Do They Actually Mean Anything?

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So, it’s the day after the Iowa caucuses. The first votes in the 2012 presidential nominating contest have been cast, and we’ve seen some results that are surprising, some not. What do we now know, and what have we learned?

Well, at this point what we know is easy to see. Mitt Romney won the Republican caucuses by a mere eight votes, in a statistical tie with Rick Santorum, the former Pennsylvania US Senator who will soon undoubtedly be dubbed “the Comeback Kid” by some blogosphere pundit somewhere. In an unexpectedly strong second place, Ron Paul more than doubled his 2008 caucus vote count and demonstrated his dominance in the constituencies of young and first-time caucus voters – groups that are far less likely to vote in big state primaries. So it is likely that the news media will continue to frame Paul as an iconoclastic also-ran with little chance of winning the nomination (as they still focus more attention on Newt Gingrich, who trailed in an embarrassing fourth place)… with the end result for public opinion that Paul will be an iconoclastic also-ran with little chance of winning the nomination.

The booby prize for the most precipitous fall from glory is a bit harder to determine: is it Michelle Bachmann, who went from Ames straw poll winner to near-last-place cellar dweller (beating only John Huntsman, who didn’t seriously compete, and two former candidates who are out of the running), who dropped out of the race today? Or is it Newt Gingrich, who saw his meteoric rise to front-runner status after the downfall of Herman Cain (prompting no small amount of front-runner braggadocio) melt away in the face of an attack ad blitzkrieg? In any event, less clear is how these results affect Rick Perry, who rapidly moved from “suspending the campaign” back to “here we come, South Carolina!” faster than the scrolling news ticker on the bottom of a cable TV news screen.

That’s what we know (and what we don’t). But what have we learned from Tuesday? As Alice observed, the GOP nominating contest becomes “curiouser and curiouser.” The lessons?

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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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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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