In Politics, Perception is King

The pundits can rail against tactics, warn that particular methods of attack are risky, and even lecture candidates about the “low road”. But it is the voter who gets the final say about campaign tactics, strategy and messages.

As much as they hate to admit it, Democrats should understand that the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth’s campaign against John Kerry didn’t succeed because it was mean, nasty and untrue. It succeeded because more people believed them than John Kerry.

That’s why it is interesting to consider the latest Rasmussen poll:

Sixty-nine percent (69%) of the nation’s voters say they’ve seen news coverage of the McCain campaign commercial that includes ../images of Britney Spears and Paris Hilton and suggests that Barack Obama is a celebrity just like them. Of those, just 22% say the ad was racist while 63% say it was not.

Reminds you of the Harold Ford incident, when, in fact, voters rejected the attempt to make an ad run by his opponent into a racist attack. It appears, given the poll numbers, that the same rejection of racism is taking place among voters who’ve seen the McCain campaign’s “celebrity” ad.

On the other hand:

However, Obama’s comment that his Republican opponent will try to scare people because Obama does not look like all the other presidents on dollar bills was seen as racist by 53%. Thirty-eight percent (38%) disagree.

You’d think, by now, the Obama campaign would have briefed their candidate that the “I look different” meme is not working to their advantage. It is being seen, rightfully in my estimation, as a attempt to differentiate the candidates by race, something the McCain campaign hasn’t done. The Obama campain then uses the difference in race to decry “scare” tactics by the other side which supposedly portray Obama as “scary” because he’s different.

It isn’t selling at all, as indicated by the poll.

So, what are the messages here? For the McCain campaign, damn the pundits, full speed ahead. And for the Obama campaign, drop the “I’m different and they’re trying to scare you because of that” routine. It’s not working.

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