Steve Schmidt, the strategic manager of John McCain’s 2008 campaign, got a friendly New York Times profile over the weekend, complete with some funny vision quest photos of Schmidt amid trees. The story is notable mainly for the perfectly sardonic way he summarizes the art of modern campaign strategy: “I’m not sure I want to spend the rest of my career waiting to pounce like a cat the moment the other side says something stupid. Aha!” That’s about right. The art of modern political advertising in one sentence.
Campaigns use soundbite attacks because they work. You are more likely to believe Mitt Romney likes to fire people, or Barack Obama feels the private sector is doing fine, if you see them saying it themselves. Context be damned. (Note to reader: Mitt Romney does not actually like firing people; he just likes the creative destruction of the marketplace. And Barack Obama is not happy with the pace of growth in the private sector; he knows there is a good chance it will cost him a second term.)
Which brings up to the latest ad campaign by SEIU and Priorities USA Action–a $4 million buy on Spanish-language television and radio meant to torture Romney with sus propias palabras–his own words.
What’s interesting about the campaign is the specific palabras that the campaign chose to focus on. There are plenty of soundbites from Romney during the primary that would alienate many Latino voters on the core issue of immigration. Just look at the DNC’s compilation:
But SEIU is acknowledging that for those Latinos who still might swing for Romney–a minority nationally–the economy will be the deciding issue. Here is another from the SEIU campaign.
Schmidt, it seems, has made a rational decision to get out of the game. I mean, look at those trees. And no one will spend millions of dollars to distort what he says.