>> Monday, August 25, 2008
According to Ezra Klein they do:
Matt Yglesias's point on the self-deception evident in focus groups cuts in a lot of different directions. It's definitely not the case that voters want to hear more policy details from Barack Obama. If it were, then the Obama campaign would be in good shape, as they'd just have the candidate read out some policy details. When the focus groupers complain that there's too much oratory and not enough substance, they're actually getting at something much harder for the Obama campaign to combat: The perception that he's all glitz. The Obama campaign's struggle is that, over the course of the summer, they basically let their candidate get defined as a dilettante, and cleverly, the McCain camp used as its supporting evidence much that's intrinsic to Obama: That he gives soaring speeches and is attractive and generates extreme levels of enthusiasm. They defined Obama, in other words, as a fad, and people don't trust fads. It's not clear how Obama campaign combats that perception given that it's anchored to the fundamentals of his political style, but they're either going to have to blunt the concern or open up a much greater vulnerability in McCain.
It is a very interesting notion. It puts the McCain celebrity ad into a completely new context. The majority of Pop Stars are very transient and last only a brief time before fading out. Like pogs they are picked up and dropped in a short time. They are shiny and new and then suddenly they are old and forgotten. I his point is accurate than Obama has a big problem because these people are lo info voters and they wont really exert themselves in correcting their false opinions. They wont be exposed enough to change. I think though that reading the entire piece that Ezra links to, through Matt and ultimately to Joe Klein, gives a little different picture.
What do they want? Given a list of 31 personal attributes the next President might have and asked to pick the eight most important, "Accountability" finished highest with 13 votes, next was "Someone I can trust" with 12, "honest and ethical" was third with 11. "Agrees with me on the issues" got one vote. They didn't care if the candidate was a Washington insider or outsider. "A dynamic and charismatic leader" got two votes...(Add: When Luntz asked them which was more important, "accountability" or "change," the vote was 17 to 4 in favor of accountability.)
That should be the focus of any piece on this group. Clearly what people want is change. What “change” was supposed to stand for was a new way of doing things where competent people were put in place and the incompetent were fired. Change away from the Bush years where cronies and sycophants were put in places designed to subvert government. They think the government is broken and they don’t trust either candidate to really do anything about it. Obama is playing into this because the more he offers the less people believe he is going to deliver.
For this group in particular it is not about fixing the economy or any thing other than returning government to a body that works for the people. Screw-ups get people fired. Money is not “lost”. It is the idea of personal responsibility making a comeback.
The good news is that these people are not “government is the problem” people. They are pissed because they think government can work but has just been screwed up. Obama the outside reformer come to clean up Washington should be a big hit as long as people believe he is going to do it. Obama is being seen as a regular politician,
Promises don't work. Whenever Obama promised a $1000 tax break in one of the ads, the reaction was negative--the dial ratings went south. When he said that we'd spend less money on health if people took better care of themselves, the independents--many of whom were, shall we say, Big Gulp Americans--responded well.
The tax credit is seen as a false promise but people recognize the exercise stuff as true. An Obama message tailored to holding people responsible for screwing up the past eight years would be a big hit. Think about it, no one likes Bush. Every one thinks we are headed down the wrong track. Promising to bring forth the heads of those responsible sounds like a winning argument.
I am not going to say Obama should make his arguments about accountability and responsibility but I think it makes sense.