Tuesday, October 17, 2006

'Off Brand' vs. 'Re-brand': Jim Talent vs. Claire McCaskill on 'Meet the Press'

MISSOURI– Troubled as the Republicans are in this political moment, they are rarely off brand -- and almost always "on message."

From the Reagan era forward, Republican candidates consistently sought to portray decisiveness, machismo, and down-home straight-talkin' in every campiagn appearance. Always on the offensive, even in the majority, the Republican brand successfully drove home the idea that Republicans were tough on crime, taxes, our enemies, and their Democratic opposition.

Sen. Jim Talent (R-MO) has lately become an exception. Frustrated by the traction of a pro-stem cell research initiative in his home state, Talent's performance on "Meet the Press" October 8 was as "off brand" as it gets. Had he stayed true to the overarching Republican identity program, Talent's handlers would have pulled off his granny glasses, pulled the back of his coat tight to his collar -- and forced the senator to respond to Democrat Claire McCaskill's "grandmotherly prosecutor" positioning with complete resolve. Instead, Talent waffled, wiffled, and nervously downed extra coffee on camera, as McCaskill eviscerated his overly-parsed positions on issues ranging from Iraq to Foleygate with good old Missouri straight-talk and common sense.

This is a star turn re-brand for the Democrats, demonstrating the breadth of the party's newfound "big tent" approach to competing in the battlegrond states. But, The Brandwagon has one bit of caution for the charismatic McCaskill: "It's okay to look like a senator -- now that you're a contender." Cop a page out of the Condi Rice playbook and opt for a navy blue power suit over that lavender confection you wore on Russert. For, Mr. Talent, it might be time to consider lasix.


Dimmy said...

This is my problem with Missouri, Tennessee and Virginia (granted the Dems have overcome this in Virginia in 2005). The absolute best way to predict which way a voter will vote is by their party affiliation. This is fact backed up by experts in the field including Hal Malchow. Democrats will almost always vote 80%+ with the Democratic nominee, and Republicans with the Republican nominee with similar percentages.
All three states in question do not have party affiliation on their registration (very few southern states do). Therefore, Democratic campaigns have been targeting their voters geographically - which even by precinct is pretty crude - as they will talk to all voters in base precincts (65%+ Democratic performance) - which means they are potentailly losing 1 vote for every 2 they turn out. IF they were talking to registerd Dems for example in Pennsylvania - they would only lose 1 vote for every 4 they gain. The Republicans have made it well known that they have very sophisticated records on individual voters including magazine subuscriptions, hunting licences, gun ownership, vehicle ownership - that they have made into a sceince of refining based on those criteria - who exactly is a Republican voter. This is how they have efficiently gained seats based on their microtargeting. (ie - Minnesota, Missouri, and Georgia in 2002), North Carolina, Louisiana, (senate Races) in 2004. This is a problem that the Democratic party needs to address as part of a multi-cycle long term strategy. I think Montana will flip to the Dems this year, but by a much smaller margin than is being predicted now.

Peter S. Cohl said...

Dimmy makes a cogent case for Republican retention of Missouri's Senate seat. But microtargeting is not a panacea for turnout if the Republican brand is splintering, particularly among its core constituencies. Republican strategists might be able to identify potential supporters, but persuading the them to actually vote in the current climate might be more challenging -- particularly when one considers that Talent won by a 1.1 percent in in 2002 ( a time in which the President's approval ratings hovered around 68 percent.