Hillary Clinton will not be your next President

Way back in the day, then-candidate Barack Obama got a really flattering picture in the paper. Actually, it was the New York Times, and actually it looked like a leaked still from an Airwolf reboot.

When I first saw that picture, I believed that Barack Obama would be the next President of the United States. While that picture always stood out in my mind, just about everyone I knew who paid attention to the campaign that year had a similar moment of clarity where they believed Obama would beat John McCain.

It comes to mind now because, a couple weeks back, this horrible video started making the rounds on YouTube:

Someone thought this was a good idea. It’s not simple to put this together – someone wrote the song, hired a band, scripted the video, and apparently wanted to make something that promoted Hillary Clinton while looking like the result of a drunken one-night stand between crappy pop-country and a third quarter earnings presentation. (“Hi, Rascal Flats? It’s PowerPoint. …Yes, I had a fun night, too, but… Well, we need to talk. I’m pregnant.”) It took work and effort, which means someone actually thought about this a lot. And it still got made, incredibly.

The imagery, from the shattered glass ceiling to the man getting on a motorcycle behind a lady is heavy-handed and condescending. And it shamelessly panders to middle Americans, who may love country music but probably recognize when a former Senator from New York is trying too hard.

Oversimplified, poorly conceived messages delivered with insincerity are nothing new to Clinton’s public appearances this year, from the time she started promoting her book to now. This video subtly underscores every negative she currently has. Clinton’s country music video projects someone going through the motions of a campaign as a formality before a Presidency she feels she is owed.

Is it any wonder why the jibber-jabber around Elizabeth Warren as a potential primary challenger has warmed so significantly in the weeks since this video came out?

RIP Black Friday. Cyber Monday, you’re next!

Black Friday shopping was down. Cyber Monday shopping was up. By now, plenty of pundits have pointed out the obvious: that the shift reflects the dominance of online, on-demand shopping over fighting crowds to get into brick and mortar stores. No surprise there.

This isn’t a condition, though, it’s a symptom of humanity’s desire for convenience. And that means you can expect Cyber Monday to change, too.

Black Friday became a big shopping day because of its convenience. Most Americans either had an off day or a very light work day on the Friday after Thanksgiving, which made a quick trip to the mall more convenient. In recent years (particularly the last decade or so), stores have highlighted the shopping experience – such as getting up early to get great deals. But the convenience of online shopping – which can be done anywhere and at any time – trumps the convenience of an off day.

The idea behind Cyber Monday comes from an antiquated shopping idea, too. Ten years ago, the fastest and most reliable connection most Americans has to the internet was from the desktop computer they used at work. Home internet was often dial-up or DSL, and the smartphone revolution was still a few years away. But as this infographic demonstrates, shoppers have followed the trends of residential and handheld internet. Smartphone and tablet users grew from 30% of all online shopping traffic in 2013 to 41% this year. Perhaps even more notable, the bulk of shopping took place in the late evening, after 9:00 p.m.

The popularity of the online option is unquestionable. But just as the idea of Black Friday capitalizes on the idea of shoppers being in a certain place at a certain time, so too does the idea of Cyber Monday. The next inevitable move is for shoppers to abandon the idea of Cyber Monday, except as a promotional gimmick.

In fact, this trend has already started. Many online retailers have dubbed this “cyber week,” a nod to the fact that shoppers have plenty of flexibility. Online shopping isn’t going anywhere and should continue to eclipse in-store sales, but don’t be surprised if the concept of “Cyber Monday” evaporates from pop culture long before “Black Friday.”

Wow, was I ever wrong

I sure was pessimistic last week, wasn’t I?  After predicting a 49-49 tie in the Senate and losing two of the four key incumbent governors, imagine my surprise when Republicans swept the four gubernatorial elections (while picking up big surprise wins in Illinois and Maryland and a lesser surprise in Massachusetts) and blew well past 51 Senators. In almost all races, Republican candidates outperformed their public poll numbers, which points to really well-run, tactically superior campaigns. That’s one half of what your need to win.

The second half is messaging, and the fact that my third prediction – that minimum wage increases would pass in red states – was right on the money. Sen. Mark Udall’s “War on Women” messaging might not have worked, but you can bet the Democrats’ class of 2016 won’t fumble the issue so poorly as he did, and might find more receptive ears among the younger, single women who come to the ballot box in two years. Throw in climate change, immigration, and taxing the rich, and suddenly Democrats have a suite of winning issues on which to build their next majority.

That’s why the 2016 campaign has to start immediately – and it has to be about issues before it becomes about candidates.

Fearless Forecasts 2014

Before the polls close and the sun goes down on another Election Day, some predictions:

The Senate: Control of the U.S. Senate is what everyone’s talking about this year, even if it’s not the most significant slate of races. Republicans will pick up seats in Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Montana, and West Virginia. With a loss in Kansas, Republicans will control 49 seats at the end of the night, with Georgia and Louisiana heading to a runoff. Close losses in several states (especially New Hampshire and North Carolina) will result in a round of “What went wrong for the GOP?” stories tomorrow morning. Georgia’s runoff will be more competitive than most pundits currently expect.

The Big Four Governors: Democrats and Republicans will split the top four gubernatorial re-election contests, with Scott Walker and Rick Snyder holding on in Wisconsin and Michigan, respectively, and Rick Scott and Sam Brownback losing in Florida and Kansas. It will be a bad night for Kansas Republicans.

The Aftermath. Minimum wage referenda – which have slipped under the radar – will be successful in several Republican states. On the back of this, Democrats will push for similar measures in expected 2016 swing states to help Democrat turnout.

Sen. Udall’s Heckler and Handling Negative Information

For all the time spent talking, political campaigns are usually such well-orchestrated affairs. But every now and then, a seemingly random event vocalizes a key point – something proviously unspoken, but unquestionably known.  (Think the “macaca moment” of 2006, when the electorate was already whispering about then-Sen. George Allen, “Isn’t he kind of racist?”)

Sen. Mark Udall had a moment like that yesterday, when a donor – a donor! – called him out on his stuck-in-2012 war-on-women rhetoric about opponent Cory Gardner:

Then, finally, came the only reference to policy in Udall’s speech. “And by the way, I’m proud to stand with Colorado’s women,” he said, almost as an aside. “I’m proud to stand for reproductive freedom.”

An angry voice from the crowd jeered: “That’s not the only thing you stand for! Jesus Christ!”… The heckler was Leo Beserra, a 73-year-old who made millions on Wall Street and, since the early 1990s, has shared a generous slice of that wealth with Colorado Democrats.

Beserra’s grievance – that the senator’s narrow focus on abortion has backfired – is shared by others in the party, but rarely voiced in public and never in the midst of the candidate’s campaign speech.

That brought to mind a lesson we used to teach back at the Leadership Institute about handling negative information. The details come from an election in the 1960s or 1970s where the incumbent candidate had an affair. The tryst had been exposed by a sex tape, created in the days where that meant an audiocassette; the raunchy content made it impossible for newspapers to cover (not to mention radio). That didn’t prevent wide distribution, and soon most reporters and editors had heard the tape. Copies had been made and distributed to friends and friends-of-friend, and the philandering candidate (philandidate?) saw his poll numbers wane.

Then the challenger mentioned the tape as a joke in a public speech.

The joke went over well, but gave the newspapers license to cover the tape – and, more specifically, the challenger’s comments. It wasn’t long before the incumbent’s wife was on TV, decrying the challenger’s rudeness at bringing up such a private matter. The incumbent won a narrow reelection victory.

It’s not a perfect analogue, but Democrat candidates are imploding all over the place – whether it’s Martha Coakley’s even-I-know-this-is-BS rhetorical gymnastics in the Massachusetts gubernatorial race or Texas’s Wendy Davis repeatedly trying to point out that her opponents has overcome a crippling handicap. Republican operatives should let it happen – and not try to clumsily squeeze every drop of negative press out of an incident.

If I were advising Cory Gardner or an outside group looking to help tip the scales, I’d tell them to let the reporters have fun with Mark Udall getting heckled by his own supporter. First, a supporter of Udall has much more credibility when he says the “War on Women” crap is getting tired, and he probably speaks for lots of Democrats who are tired of hearing the same songs played again. Second, it reminds voters that the Democrats have plenty of deep pockets on their donor lists, too. That’s the story the reporters are telling.

Trying to weigh in would change the story – and not for the better.

The 2014 Senate Elections Gambling Form

Rasmussen tells us three out of five voters believe there will be a GOP Senate, and belief in inevitability can be powerful.  So how do we judge how well the parties actually do? Thankfully, sports gambling concepts can help. Isn’t it great that two of America’s finest traditions, illegal gambling and politics, go so well together?

The actual spread: 5 1/2 seats. Because Republicans have been so bad at tamping down expectations, the basic spread for the Senate will be 5 1/2. If the Republican gains are higher than that (six seats or more) it means Senate control; any fewer means the story on Wednesday morning is that the Republicans are limping out of the midterms once again foiled by a changing demographic.

What the spread ought to be: 8 1/2 seats. Better messaging and more advanced voter identification, starting in 2013, would have created a foundation for the party to take much better advantage of the wave of unrest the electorate has.  An unending series of scandals and screw-ups from the White House gave the GOP and the broader conservative movement the platform they needed to articulate a better vision for a smaller, more competent government.

And make no mistake: The lower spread is more an indictment of a broader conservative movement content with winning ankle-hurdle victories in red states and not nearly aggressive enough in expanding the  base of people receptive to such messages. It’s tough for Republicans to win the battle of the ballot box in places where no one is fighting the battle of ideas.

Why Obama’s “On the Ballot” remark was secretly genius.

About ten days ago, President Barack Obama seemed like he had decided to write political ads for Republicans by declaring that his “policies are on the ballot.” Republicans crowed and Democrats moaned that it was a mistake destined to hurt Democratic candidates, who are running away from the president with cartoonish urgency.

The last few days have indeed been poor for Democrats, but that’s largely the doing of a set of candidates who either forgot how to talk or who looked at their wheelchair-bound opponent with the suspicious disdain of Walter Sobchak. That all this followed the President’s comments is largely coincidence. Their undisciplined candidates have proven as adept at self-destruction as Republican candidates have been in the previous three election cycles.

Throw in an unfavorable issue environment, and 2012 is an election that could get away from Democrats. But as a recent Gallup poll shows, Republican voters aren’t geeked for November 4 like they were in 2010:

deh8y4-gz02xiusjwspukq

In other words, Republican gains in 2014 will be as much or more the result of disillusionment and lethargy on the left as it is about excitement on the right. Two years ago, these voters were excited and motivated – which is why Romney winning the supposedly vital “independent vote” didn’t help him at all.

Will independent voters be turned off by Obama’s policies being on the ballot? Maybe, but if you’re the Democrats, who cares? You won without them in 2012, and the only way to win in 2014 is to drag out the people who thought it was so important to elect and reelect the President.