General Election Is a Numbers Game

Monday, 24 Sep 2012 09:28 AM

By Bradley Blakeman

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A presidential campaign is run on a fixed predetermined timeline. A well-organized campaign will look at a calendar and plug in important events and dates that are predetermined and work toward trying to influence the outcome, i.e., the Convention, Labor Day, Columbus Day, the U.N. General Assembly in New York, The Al Smith Dinner, the Debates, and Election Day.

Then the campaign will look at events they can plan to influence and drive news, i.e., an economic address to the Detroit Economic Club, The Des Moines Chamber of Commerce, The Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, a foreign policy speech, and meeting with World Leaders in NYC during the U.N. General Assembly. They also will look to bracket and respond to the opposition’s events with surrogate responses.

Furthermore, a campaign must be nimble enough to react to real-time events that have a direct impact on the campaign like the recent Middle East terrorist attacks on Americans in Libya and unrest in places like Egypt.

In addition, a campaign must be prepared for the “October Surprise”, even if it comes in September. We saw this manifested last week when the liberal rag Mother Jones, masquerading as a legitimate media outlet, leaked the now-famous video of Romney making “off the record” remarks at a private fundraiser last May.

There is no doubt that the Obama campaign, in light of the disastrous foreign policy blunders made last week and that continue today, wanted to change the message and thus appeared the video tape where Romney states the obvious with regard to his chances and strategy of winning.

In the weeks leading up to Election Day, campaigns had better be on their toes to dodge, deflect, and fend off attack after attack — all calculated at throwing the other off message. How candidates and their camps handle attacks can determine how long such stories last and the damage done.

The message of a campaign must be clear and repetitive enough for voters to understand what a candidate stands for and why they deserve their support.

In the presidential election of 2000 the Bush campaign wanted voters to remember three things about candidate Bush:

1. He was a “Compassionate Conservative”, someone who could bring us together; 2. That he would “Leave No Child Behind” when it came to education. He would create high standards for education with metrics and results; and 3. He was a “Reformer With Results”; he would work to make government more responsive to the people and more efficient.

In this campaign we have yet to see Romney define himself with a clear message that resonates and can be easily repeated back. The president is stuck with a record. His message of “Forward” is the best he can do because if you look back at his record there is nothing but failure and incompetence.

The message that will carry the day in this election is one of hope, competence, and leadership on the economy and foreign affairs. The only way to beat an incumbent is on his record and offering a clear distinction in messaging as to why Americans will be better off making a change.

Romney needs pithy one-liners that will stick with the public. Statements like, “I want to give you a job, the president wants to give you a check, or “If it weren’t for bad news, Obama would not make news on the economy or anything else.” Then tick off the failures of the president on unemployment, gas, debt, etc.

The third important component to a successful presidential campaign is obviously getting the 270 electoral votes necessary to become the president of the United States. It is a numbers game and requires a clear understanding of risk, resources, and reward. Although we are a nation of 50 states, there are only a handful that will decide the 2012 presidential election.

Real Clear Politics is reporting this week that Obama likely has 247 electoral votes and Romney has 191 leaving 100 in the toss-up column. The current toss-up states are Colorado, Florida, Iowa, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Ohio, and Virginia.

There is no secret that 2012 will be a base election. That is to say that each side MUST turn out their base in big numbers in these critical battleground states. The base turnout must be augmented by Independents. Obama and Romney at the end of the day are likely to each get 46 to 47 percent of the vote. That means both campaigns will be fighting over 6 to 7 percent of independent voters in battleground states.

It is crucial that each campaign have a ground game of get out the vote that is well targeted and executed.

In a base election, where there exists such polarization another factor becomes more important in the minds of independents and that is the debates. I believe the three presidential debates and the one vice-presidential debate could be the deal maker or the deal breaker in this election. With the polls so tight and within the margin of error, the debates become more important than ever for Obama or Romney to break out of the pack.

The next few weeks with be a roller coaster for sure. The candidate that is able to best hold on and remember to work the calendar, message, and numbers to their best advantage will win. It is just that simple — yet so difficult to execute.

Bradley A. Blakeman served as deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001-04. He is currently a professor of Politics and Public Policy at Georgetown University and a frequent contributor to Fox News Opinion. Read more reports from Bradley Blakeman — Click Here Now.

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