Republicans for Democrat Doug Jones

Alabama, a state which has voted for the Republican candidate at every US Presidential election since 1980, is holding a Special Election (read: by-election) for their Senator on 12th December.

Multiple women have accused the Republican candidate Roy Moore of making unwanted advances or sexual assaults on them when he was in his early thirties and they were in their teens (the youngest was 14 at the time).

Given it’s traditionally such a GOP stronghold, campaigners are using Republican voices to give those who typically vote red the room to support the Democrat candidate Doug Jones.

Would Trump win again one year on?

Donald Trump was elected as President of the USA on 8th November 2016 and has had a controversial first year in office.  If he were to run again one year on, would he win? An election taking place in Virginia 364 days after Trump’s victory will give us a good idea.

It’s a year since Donald Trump shocked the world and won the US Presidency. Highlights of his term so far include trying to ban people from Muslim-majority countries from entering the USA, defending white nationalists protesting in Charlottesville, withdrawing from the Paris climate agreement and travelling to the brink of nuclear war with North Korea.

Given Hillary Clinton won the popular vote and the consistent chorus of public outrage surrounding the current Presidency, it’s easy to assume that if another contest took place on the anniversary of the 2016 election, the Democratic candidate would end up in the White House.

That assumption is being put to the test in an election taking place on Tuesday 7th November to decide the next Governor of Virginia.

A bit of background on Virginia: it is historically a swing state; George W. Bush and Obama both won it twice; Hillary Clinton won the state by about five percentage points in 2016; and there is no incumbent as governors in Virginia can’t hold office for consecutive terms.

The Republican Party candidate, Ed Gillespie, has totally aligned himself with Trump’s agenda and the Democrat candidate, Ralph Northam, is from the Clinton (as opposed to Sanders) wing of his party.

Like Trump in ‘16, Gillespie is campaigning on the issue of tax cuts, job creation and reducing illegal immigration.  He has argued for the conservation of Confederate-era statues and complained about “sanctuary cities” (a city that limits its cooperation with the national government effort to enforce immigration law).  And he has relentlessly attacked his Democratic opponent.

Gillespie is hoping that by sticking closely to Trump’s Presidential agenda he will encourage a high turnout amongst conservative voters.

Northam is campaigning on abortion rights, the environment and is attacking his opponent as being a reactionary running a nasty, racist dog-whistle campaign.

The Democrat has more money to spend, has run more TV ads than his opponent and will be hoping to turnout the democratic base and add enough undecided women and ethnic minorities to beat his Republican opponent.

Again, this feels very familiar.

The race is seemingly too close to call with different polls showing widely different results; some have Northam with a double-digit lead and others have Gillespie just edging it.

Strategists in Washington D.C and beyond are watching the race closely. The result will give a good indication as to the mood of the electorate and will provide useful intel as to how to play mid-term elections in 2018.

And looking further ahead, if another Clinton-style candidate fails to succeed, it could influence perspectives on what type of nominee stands a chance of beating Trump in 2020.

Sarah Silverman 2012 – Let my people vote

Sarah Silverman has released her long-awaited follow-up to ‘The Great Schlep’ that received huge acclaim in 2008.  Similarly to her previous effort it takes on an unexpected element of the election narrative, is staunchly pro-Obama and provocatively rude towards the Republican candidate.

The focus for the video is new ‘Voter ID’ laws and whilst funny it lacks the political insight (focusing on elderly, Jewish, Florida-dwelling votes) and (relatively) clean-cut gags that made the original so great.

Nevertheless, the video’s message is convincing – the viewer is left with the impression that Voter ID is unfair and that sense of injustice is the sort of thing that gets supporters out on to the door step.

Not as good as the original, but that was a hard act to follow.  This video has gained millions of views in its first week and has contributed significantly to the narrative of the 2012 election.

Give Lugar a Place to Stay

Republican (and Tea Party) Super Pac FreedomWorks for America have launched a website to try and unseat one of their own – Senator Richard Lugar.  The sitting Republican Senator has been in office in the State of Indiana since 1977.

FreedomWorks for America aggressively support their preferred candidates and are never shy in taking on incumbent Republicans.

Senator Lugar is being attacked for not having lived in Indiana since 1977, when he moved to McLean, Virginia.  According to the SuperPac, when he visits Indiana, he stays at taxpayer-funded hotels.  The US constitution states that Senators must live in the state in which they hold office, so if the accusations are justified, Lugar is breaking the law.

The tongue-in-cheek website invites the population of Indiana to send an email to Senator Lugar offering him a place to stay next time he’s visiting the state, thus saving the tax-payer some cash.  Once you send an email, you’re invited to contribute to the campaign.

It’s a neat little campaign which would have been relatively cheap to put together, but provided that the issue is salient enough, could end up yielding significant contributions.

Hoisted by your own petard

I’ve just come across a great post from a Californian political activist about a very good anti-Whitman advert that ran in the recent mid-term elections:

“One reason I particularly liked it: the ad was a kind of political “deconstruction” of political advertising itself. It pointed out, implicitly, how deceptive political advertising really is. The “sound bites” used and repeated by Whitman were used by her because they had “worked” for Schwarzenegger. These words were supposed to operate like an incantatory spell, and the result of hearing these words, exactly as both Schwarzenegger and Whitman phrased them, was supposed to sway the voters who heard their message.

That technique, using carefully prepared slogans, repeated endlessly, does sway voters (just as it sells consumer goods). Politics has turned into advertising because advertising does “work.” And we all recognize the truth of this. In fact, a good deal of political coverage, nowadays, is about the ads, or about whether the candidates will have enough money to run their ads, and not about either policy or substance. Focus groups and polls tell the advertising professionals what will “motivate” the voters, and these scientifically prepared statements and slogans will then be repeated, and reiterated, and will become, defacto, what the campaign is all about.

Since we “make” the world we most immediately inhabit, basing our actions, largely, upon the words we use to guide us, this kind of political “discourse” will ultimately destroy all opportunity for genuine change. Brown’s ad, in a very real way, was an attempt to “break the spell.”

Two World’s

Ten freakiest political ads from US mid-terms

Adweek have compiled a list of the ten freakiest campaign ads from the US mid-term elections.  I’ve featured most of them on here before, but the ad that grabbed Adweek’s top spot managed to evade me until now.

It was created by a Democratic campaign group with intention of discrediting Republican candidate Meg Whitman’s (former eBay CEO) multimillion-dollar run to become Governor of California.

A cheap attack aimed at withering away wavering supporters.  Not great in my opinion – the narration doesn’t flow easily and the ‘buy it now’ button comment with the visual of the plane wing doesn’t make much sense.  But it’s certainly pretty ‘freaky’.

Negative political advertising – it’s nasty, but it works

Two of adlands most prolific bloggers have today written about the depths that political advertising has plunged to during the mid-term elections.  Polling day is tomorrow and both Seth Godin and  The Ad Contrarian have highlighted how the vast majority of negative political advertising is used to dissuade the undecided electorate from turning out.

The basic logic of running negative ads goes as follows – ‘if they aint gonna vote for us, let’s make sure they don’t vote at all’.  Convincing voters to stay at home sounds like a strange strategy to win an election, but most of the research data shows that it works.

“Since 1960, voting turnouts in mid-term elections are down significantly, and there’s one reason: because of TV advertising. Political TV advertising is designed to do only one thing: suppress the turnout of the opponent’s supporters.”

Seth Godin

“Political advertising has been horrifying for a long time now. But it has reached a level of nastiness and deception that I believe is unprecedented….

…The thing that should be really frightening to us ad people is that nobody studies the effects of their advertising like the political class. They test everything. They are constantly polling to see how their advertising is affecting their numbers.

Unfortunately, we ad people have to face the reality that this horrible advertising and the strategies behind it are alarmingly effective. It’s very sobering.”

Ad Contrarian