The <strike>Enthusiasm</strike> SIZZLE Gap


enthusiasm gap.jpg
On June 11th, I posted a link to a videologue of McCain Campaign Manager Rick Davis walking through Senator McCain’s strategy with the public.
Today, the Obama team has released a set of powerpoints that campaign manager David Plouffe used in a “strategy” discussion with the media. I’ve attached the pdf file here.
One of the most interesting — and obvious — graphs shows an “Enthusiasm Gap” between Republicans and Democrats. I prefer to call it a “Sizzle Gap.”
Voter enthusiasm among Dems is running at 61% and among Republicans 35% (despite the Gallup poll results which show these two tied. . .at least for today).
So, the obvious question is whether Obama — in style and in policy substance — will remain bold and dramatic, or instead make himself more bland to appeal to the center. And what will McCain do to upgrade his sizzle?
— Steve Clemons


4 comments on “The <strike>Enthusiasm</strike> SIZZLE Gap

  1. Paul Norheim says:

    I am sure Zathras has a valid point here. In an article in yesterday`s New York Times, Michael Powell interprets this as “a Pragmatist’s Shift Toward the Center”. But then, when you look at the new tactics of Obama – the more “bland” candidate, saying “fewer and fewer interesting things” (Zathras` formulations) – what statements has that candidate made during the recent days and weeks?
    Here are a couple of quotes from Powells article:
    “On Thursday, he seemed to embrace a Supreme Court decision, written by the court’s premiere conservative and upheld 5-to-4, striking down Washington, D.C.’s ban on handguns.”
    “In the last week, Mr. Obama has taken calibrated positions on issues that include electronic surveillance, campaign finance and the death penalty for child rapists, suggesting a presidential candidate in hot pursuit of what Bill Clinton once lovingly described as “the vital center.””
    And he elaborates a bit on several of these “calibrated positions – a short quote:
    “Mr. Obama has executed several policy pirouettes in recent weeks, each time landing more toward the center of the political ring. On Wednesday in Chicago, he confirmed that he would not fight a revised law that would extend retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that helped the government spy on American citizens.”
    To me, as a European, and, I believe, to a lot of Americans as well, the “calibrated”, more “bland”, and less bold Obama, the candidate who seeks “not to appeal to any particular segment of the electorate” – to me that candidate seem rather dramatic and extreme.
    The NYT`s writer did not mention Obamas statements in his recent AIPAC speech – among them his support for an “undivided Jerusalem”. Perhaps he forgot that, or perhaps it did not fit into his analysis – who knows?
    But to me they are of the same kind as the rest of his calibrated and bland positions. They sort of sum up the story of how far to the right Cheney, Bush and the Neocons have managed to move the center of US politics. If you want to play safe, in an attempt to deliver utter non-controversial statements in the current American climate, you talk about an “undivided Jerusalem” and support retroactive immunity to telecommunications companies that helped the government spy on American citizens.
    That kind of stuff. In America right now, it`s like talking about flowers, favorite food, hobbies.


  2. Zathras says:

    Candidates leading in the polls tend to make themselves more “bland” in deference to the people running their campaigns, not to appeal to any particular segment of the electorate.
    Obama’s campaign was, in the context of the Democratic Party, modestly bold with respect to substance and innovative as well as disciplined with respect to campaign mechanics, right up until the Wisconsin primary. After Obama won a big victory in Wisconsin and appeared likely to maintain his delegate lead over Sen. Clinton, his campaign maintained its technical focus, but had Obama himself say fewer and fewer interesting things. This wasn’t done to appeal to anyone. It was done in an effort to avoid mistakes.
    If anything the pressure on Obama to be “bold and dramatic” is less now, because the race for the Democratic nomination was closer than the general election is likely to be, and because his general election opponent has the least popular President in modern American history weighing him down. Personally, I see difficulties in running a campaign in “prevent defense” mode five months before the election, with a candidate about whom many Americans still know little. I don’t know if Obama will do this, but conventional campaign tradecraft generally tries to play it safe with a lead, and the people running Obama’s campaign will be strongly tempted to do the same.


  3. Kathleen says:

    Most tracking polls are not that indicative of how poeple will actually vote because they only measure the top 10% of consciousness, the part that changes with daily events and the direction of the wind., so to speak.
    To really plumb the intentions of voters, candidates need to conduct in depth psychological studies, what Madison Avenue calls Motivational Research. This is very expensive, but a far more reliable indicator of what the voter will do on that first Tuesday of Nov. Serious candidates have a series of these throughout the campaign.
    The reliability of the poll depends on what questions are asked, how they are asked and how the results are interpreted. To get around conditioned repsonses, the same questions need to be asked several times in different ways, especially where issues of race, gender, religion, are involved.
    Meanwhile, back at the voting booth, my enthusiasm has turned from sizzle to fizzle. I like a lot of boldness and vision in my candidates, not careful cautious straddlers.


  4. WigWag says:

    This post about the enthusiasm/sizzle gap is directly related to your last post about the Gallup Tracking poll. The tracking poll records the preference of registered voters, many of whom don’t vote. Polls of registered voters almost always favor Democrats and polls of likely voters almost always favor republicans (because republicans have historically turned out in greater numbers). In past years we could assume that a tracking poll that showed a tie in registered voters actually meant an advantage for the republicans becuase their voters are more likely to show up at the polls. It could be different this year. Why? Because of the enthusiasm gap. Democratic and Independent voters hate Bush so much and are so enthusiastic for change (for change not for Obama)that they may be more likely to turn out. Alot of it dependes on how the 18 million Clinton voters respond. There are lots of warning signs on this site and elsewhere that their enthusiasm for the Obama candidacy is still weak at best.


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