Saturday, June 22, 2013

Brilliant Analysis of the BC Election by Gary Mason

Christy Clark  outworking and outframing Dix
If you relish the nitty-gritty of political campaigns, like reading a well-written journalist post, and want to learn why framing cost the BC NFP a surefire win in the recent provincial election, then study the article headed Anatomy of a Comeback by Gary Mason in today's Globe & Mail.

The disemboweling of Adrian Dix and his NDP:

Mason lays out how the Christy Clark team of professionals went about disemboweling the inept NDP leader, Adrian Dix, starting with an analysis of  how to frame three things: the ballot box question, the Dipper leader and his party, and the Liberal theme.

Framing wins or loses elections, as professional politicians in Canada and in the USA know. He who wins the framing war, wins the election.

The Clark brainstrust – along with Clark herself – succeeded beyond their wildest dreams in successfully framing these three issues.

Mulcair's NDP as Collateral Damage:

And Dix lost the best chance the BC NDP will have for a generation to take over government in that province. In the process, Dix's NDP have already framed the federal NDP under Thomas Mulcair as unsuitable for governance due to their economic DNA and policies. What worked in BC will work in the 2014 or 2015 federal elections. Dix not only lost his election, he made a non-NDP alternative (the Liberal Party of Canada) much more viable as the next federal government.

Lessons to be Learned from the Dix NDP Fiasco:

There are several major lessons all parties can learn from this campaign.

Laziness loses elections:

Dix could have taken a leaf from Lyndon Baines Johnson when it came to how to fight an election:
If nothing else, Johnson was determined to outwork his opponents. "Don't ever let my be in the house when there's daylight and keep the screen locked until dark," he told Bird.  (From LBJ by Randall B. Woods).
And LBJ was fierce in his working habits:
If a single credo had guided his career, it was a belief that, as he was constantly telling his assistants, "If you do everything, you'll win." (From Means of Ascent by Robert A. Caro).

Mason writes how the Clark Team outworked and outcampaigned Dix right from the first day of the election:

He even considered joining the campaign tour himself “to demonstrate how we could win,” and prepared by drafting notes. Under the heading “NDP mistakes,” he wrote: “Running a strategy to impress elites – media, business, labour but not really speaking to voters,” and “Not touring. Bubble wrap. He’s not tested. Lulled into complacency by poll numbers.”

Dix wrapped himself in a bubble wrap, while Clark was all over the place, relentlessly touring each and every day.

She outworked a candidate who seemed not to have his heart in the election – to lack fire in his belly.

And it worked:

Mr. Sweeney says the Liberals also were better at marrying their message to the pictures. “If you looked at the 6 o’clock news, we were annihilating them every night.”

Framing wins Elections:

Clark's team did a SWOT analysis of both parties and zeroed in on the crucial NDP weakness:

“It was important for us to understand what our strengths and vulnerabilities were with voters,” he now says, “but also what the NDP’s strengths and vulnerabilities were – and how we could take advantage of them.”

The polling and focus groups he conducted across the province pointed the Liberals toward the economy: Even though the provincial debt had expanded on their watch, the issue still played to their perceived strength and the underlying weakness of any social democratic party.

They compared this to the simple Liberal framing of the issue:

That message was simple: Don’t spend what you don’t have; don’t burden future generations with debt; leave the world better off for your kids than what you had.

Joined by Don Millar, their resident advertising guru, the Liberal brain trust parsed the speech for talking points and potential slogans, coming up with “Strong economy, secure tomorrow,” the main campaign credo.
Disciplined Messaging Counts:

Dix blew it with his Kinder Surprise announcement:

It was a defining moment in the campaign, and presented many opportunities: The ad hoc nature of the announcement dovetailed nicely with Liberal criticism of Dix policies as haphazard and ill-conceived. It also undermined Mr. Dix’s contention that he was principled and could be trusted not to make decisions for purely political gain.

Perhaps most important of all, Liberals could say the move showed how little the NDP cared about economic development.

The results bore out the efforts of the Liberals. The challenge from Dix's NDP was brushed aside, and Clark had won her own election.

She is now Premier, on her own terms, and set for possibly two or more terms, barring mistakes.

And the NDP – federal and provincial – are back at the drawing boards, trying to figure out how to play with the big guys.

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