Posted by: David Kiley on February 11, 2008
As the Democrats look ahead to a race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama that could go to the convention, so-called Democractic strategists who believe the Dems will be at a disadvantage to the Republicans in summer don’t understand how marketing works.
Ask anyone in marketing today, and they will tell you that engagement is the name of the game. That seems to favor the Dems who could be going through a summer of drama heading to the Denver convention.
Compare these two scenarios and see which party benefits from a Democratic convention fight.
On the GOP side: The Republicans finalize Senator John McCain’s pre-convention nomination in March, leaving only the decision on McCain’s running mate as a story-line for the rest of the year until September.
On the Democratic side, both Clinton and Obama continue to spend their two ample campaign funds on driving their message home (especially the richer Obama.) The news media continues to focus on the Democrats’ historic battle between potentially the first woman president and the first African-American candidate leading up to the first non-coronation convention in generations. The free media that the Democrats will receive by going to the convention without a sure nominee will be priceless. It will be the Super Bowl of politics. TV ratings of an open Democratic convention will be huge.
And yet, Democratic National Committee chairman Howard Dean is making noise about trying to broker a conclusion to the process by April if no clear winner emerges. Memo to Dean: If this is the way you view events and the mediascape for strategic purposes, no wonder you crashed in Iowa.
Talk about engagement! A summer-long battle between the two candidates, sucking all the oxygen out of the campaign from the Republicans. And one more thing…the longer the Democrats hold out from making their candidate known, the shorter the window they give right-wing anti-Democrat groups and the right-wing talk-radio noise machine to focus their ads, vitriol and push-polling on one candidate.
Campaigning against Hillary Clinton is a very different strategy than campaigning against Barack Obama. Holding out will split the opposition strategy.
Far from looking fractured, these two Democratic candidates have already learned that they can battle each other and the Republians at the same time. Note how huge the Democratic turnout at the polls has been compared with the Republicans. As they make their cases for their own candidacies, they will also be preaching unity when the decision is made in Denver.
The Democrats seem to have an embarrassment of riches. If they play it right, they will have engagement to burn. But don’t for a minute believe that those riches will guarantee a victory. The New England Patriots seemed to have everything going for them too.