Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Election Day Arrives – Phew…

At long last the two year political campaign is over when the polls close today and not a day too soon as Americans were on the verge of throwing out all the politicians after this latest exercise in failing to read the mood of the public.

TV networks and political parties spent hundreds of millions of dollars trying to influence your vote this year in one of the worst episodes of the attempted manipulation of the American mind in over 50 years. In 1948 on election day every newspaper and political party in America said Harry Truman was going to get clobbered, with headlines announcing the defeat of the scrappy American president. They were wrong.

This year the news media, which should no longer be called the news media but the APM, the American Propaganda Machine, which oftentimes seemed more like a division of the Democratic National Committee, bent over backwards to help discredit Bush. And the two political party machines, well if they aren’t shamed after this fiasco, they should be sent to the Ukraine where fisticuffs are an acceptable campaign tactic.

There will be winners and losers no doubt when the votes are finally tallied, and vote counting itself is an adventure in fiction some places. How in the world can we have the most advanced science and technology in the world and still not be able to count votes honestly in many places? They never had a problem before the dependence on technology.

Okay, what do the multi-million dollar political pundits say? They have made claims that the Democrats will win 15-45 Republican seats because of the success of the anti-Bush movement. In any normal political off-year election, meaning the year when the president is not running for office, the party in power (Bush) loses about 30 seats. So to be successful the Democrats must win 30 seats in the House and take control of the Senate. Fat chance and I’ll tell you why!

In America, in spite of their best efforts, the news media and the national political parties still have not figured out how to tell you how to vote and that is a very good thing. They still forget that Americans vote for people, not parties, for local candidates, not Bush, and the more a media broadcast tells them what they will do, or the more a political party tells them who to vote for, the more the American voter will resent it and do their own thing.

This election is not about Bush, he’s not even on the ballot. Had the Republicans been thinking right they would have made it a referendum on Bush and slapped the two Democratic party pin ups all over the television. If they had made it a Bush versus Kerry/Gore campaign the Republicans might have won hands down. But they missed a golden opportunity.

What about the media polls? Don’t they tell us who will win? And what about all the focus groups used by our television networks, those folks from little towns all over America? I was involved in a scientific, non-partisan evaluation of polling techniques 26 years ago that helped introduce the “perception analysis method” to focus groups along with new techniques in tracking and backtrack polling for major campaigns. Yes folks, in this day and age there is something called non-partisan where people who are Democrats, Republicans and Independents can actually work together.

We found that in focus groups a significant number of people told you what they thought you wanted to hear, not what they really believed. So we wired the focus groups to sensors and ignored what they told us, relying on their emotional response to what they saw and heard and found a significant change in the results. Their emotions were their first impulse while their answers were the calculated response. Emotions don’t lie, except they do lie below the surface of what the political parties and media were counting in polls.

We tested the technique over and over in multiple campaigns from Nebraska to New Jersey and we could predict the results 30 days before the election within 1-2% accuracy, results which often differed from the media polls by 5-15%. To this day the emotional response technique for perception analysis is not widely used by campaigns. What a shame.

In the course of 33 political campaigns I worked on from mayor to president, congress to senate, spanning the last five decades, there are some things that just never change. The published polls do not tell you the real story. No national election has been won or lost on any issue but the economy. Negative campaigns result in fewer people voting from the party running the ads, and tend to heighten the intensity of those offended by the ads. In other words, an anti-Bush ad could drive more Republicans to the polls.

Political parties still don’t understand the independent vote, they take for granted the traditional base, and they focus on the wrong issues. Independent voters are usually disenfranchised party voters and many people still are registered in a party but vote for the candidate, not the party machine. Parties seem to think the traditional base voters will do what they are told, and the Democrats are particularly insensitive to this. They think every minority voter in America from African American to Hispanic to Union member will do what they are told.

We destroyed that misconception when in 1985 Tom Kean (Republican from New Jersey) won the largest share of minority vote ever captured by a governor candidate since the Reconstruction days after the Civil War. Imagine that, a blue blood Republican winning the largest victory in history in a Democratic state.

Regarding issues, wars tend to be supported by the public whether they agree with it or not because their sons and daughters, husbands, relatives or fathers and mothers are the Americans over there fighting in the war and dying and people do not want to abandon them no matter how stupid the parties. International issues and foreign affairs do not swing elections. People vote for the pocketbook, jobs, wages, savings and stability.

Off-year elections are not about the president but what your local congressman or senator will do for you. People don’t expect their representative to agree with them all the time, that is not representative government and the issues can be very deceiving. Our congress can be very underhanded by attaching riders to bills that have nothing to do with the bill so they can blame their opponents of being for or against the wrong side of an issue. Both parties do this and the media buys into it but the voters are not often fooled.

In campaign 2006 the news media and the political parties will once again be the big losers. The American voter will once again tell them what they really think, not what the hacks want to hear. When people go in to vote they won’t vote Democrat or Republican, they will vote for the woman or man that will best represent them, the one who will best represent all the people not just some of them. And the really good politicians, well they can stand on their own two feet.

So how do we know who wins? Don’t listen to the media analysis. If the Democrats win 30 house seats and 6 senate seats they will win. If the Republicans maintain control of both the house and senate they will win. If the Democrats win the house and not the senate, neither side wins. Or maybe, just maybe, it means America wins.

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