Washington Matters


In Message Wars, McCain-Palin Stick to Script


Whether you agree with the substance of their message or not, John McCain and Sarah Palin are winning on the message consistency front. They hammer a consistent theme using the same script every day. Obama and Biden might learn. ...

It may not make for a more informed electorate, but the now well-rehearsed and tightly scripted McCain-Palin message does show the value of repeating stump lines and branding a ticket for voters tuning in.

At most every campaign stop in front of cheering crowds and with the media in tow, McCain and Palin are disciplined and deliberate, using the same short, strategic lines. 

Palin always starts by delivering the initial attack on Obama, saying there's more to leadership than being a community organizer. Then she claims she opposed the infamous "bridge to nowhere," with the same practiced hand gestures each time, and then she usually closes saying that in comparison to Obama and Biden, only McCain has "truly" fought for America.

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Then there's the center stage hugging moment, polite and businesslike. 

And then McCain, who once thrived on the give-and-take of town hall meetings, follows with his own-quick fire recitation of short, scripted and overly rehearsed lines from his convention speech -- that he is knows the world and the evil in it, that Obama will raise taxes and lose jobs and (with magic marker in hand) that he will veto pork-filled spending bills and make the sponsors of earmarks famous.

Barack Obama and Joe Biden are more given to pacing before crowds, ad libbing thoughts, testing rhetorical jabs and taking questions, usually always mentioning "Bush's third term" a few times in relation to McCain. Neither seems particularly well suited to giving short, declarative scripts and leaving it at that. And it's often the case that each is alone at a campaign stop, not together like McCain and Palin.

It might be something they learn, though, in this very short presidential race as they aim to make clear the choice they offer with so little time to do it. By being deliberately short and doing the nearly exact same act at stop after stop, McCain and Palin look organized and purpose-driven, certainly not reactive or defensive.

Obama and Biden are each great communicators in their own rite, but they might be well advised to hire some editors with scissors and stage directors with cue cards to sharpen their message. It's not how either likes to run or be handled in public, but they may need to adapt.

 



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