Forget the issues: 2012 is going to be personal

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Mitt Romney will have to adapt if the campaign turns away from issues like the economy


There are two types of campaign attack ads, Bill O’Reilly noted last week. Ads based on facts and ads based on ad hominem, which in Latin is short for pointing out the character flaws or actions of your opponent in an attempt to negate the truth of his argument. O’Reilly’s two-ad analysis sprung from columnist Charles Krauthammer stating that President Obama and his fellow Democrats are going to run campaigns based on race, class and gender. We are already seeing this occur. 

Take this article, which portrays the Romney campaign tagline, “Obama isn’t working” as though, in fact, it were a nasty racial stereotype about black men. Unfortunately for Romney, that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Democrats and their allies will likely continue ad hominem attacks on Romney and put their focus on what they’ve dubbed as the Republican war on women, immigrants and African Americans. Romney will need to have a nimble media strategy to deflect attention away from these character attacks. Here are three ways he can do that.

Host “Saturday Night Live.” Romney has been offered the host spot and is considering it, according to the New York Times. Other candidates have used the show to poke fun at their public images and Romney should seize the opportunity. There’s no question that the writers will target him throughout the campaign, so playing along on his own terms is worth considering. Still, in order for it to be a success, he needs to laughed with, not laughed at. Romney’s friends say he is a “barrel of laughs” and has a reputation for being a prankster. Revealing his lighter side could raise his likeability and put him up there with the president. Charisma gets votes, as we saw in 2008.

Disclose campaign donors. Romney’s camp won’t identify his major donors and is vulnerable to criticism for failing to do so. But this lack of transparency – the Obama camp, by comparison, has disclosed the identities of his bundlers -- in Romney’s campaign could be turned into an advantage. He could increase anticipation and release the names of his financial backers when a real distraction is needed.

Put Ann in the spotlight. To most of the public, the first lady’s role is almost as important as the president’s. Moreover, candidates’ wives are naturally given a celebrity-type status that takes some of the focus off of the candidate. The Romney camp has many ways it could tout Ann Romney, but it needs to start soon. In a recent Quinnipiac University poll, 64 percent of respondents didn’t know enough about her to form an opinion. 

Mandie Suits works at Smart Media Group, a Republican political media buying agency in Alexandria, Va.  She is from Saint Albans, W. Va. and is a graduate of West Virginia University’s Perley Isaac Reed School of Journalism.

A version of this post was also published on Smart Media Group’s blog, Smart Blog.


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