Big money fails the midterm exam on effective messaging

US voters spoke loud and clear on November 2 when they catapulted the Republican party into control of the House and put a severe dent into the Democrats' hold on the Senate.

US voters spoke loud and clear on November 2 when they catapulted the Republican party into control of the House and put a severe dent into the Democrats' hold on the Senate. On a broader level, this was viewed as a warning to President Obama that his stay at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue will be limited to one term if the change he promised doesn't soon become evident.

However, not everyone in the GOP emerged victorious. And what's telling is that a handful of Republicans were taught a poignant lesson: dollars don't always equal sense.

In California, Meg Whitman (R) challenged Jerry Brown (D) for the governor's seat. As of October 16, according to the secretary of state's office, she had spent almost $107 million on TV and radio ads, compared to Brown's $21 million. In total, eBay's former CEO spent $160 million - $141 million of her own. The result: 54% to 41% for Brown.

In Connecticut, pro wrestling magnate Linda McMahon (R) spent about $47 million of her own money to challenge Richard Blumenthal (D) for a US Senate seat. She lost 55% to 44%.

Are these two states famously blue? Yes, but these campaigns took place in a political climate where voters from coast to coast seemed hell-bent on punishing the party in power. These ultra-successful businesswomen had ample opportunity to win.

Ironically, as Republicans across the board sought to position themselves as non-Obama for this recent election - and many were successful - some would have been well served had they acted more like Obama in their campaign efforts.

They might have recalled that then-Sen. Barack Obama won in 2008 on the wings of communications, both by being very good at it and by his staff's expert use of the Internet, town-hall- style meetings, and on-the-ground tactics. It would be naive not to recognize the impact of the usual channels in his ascent, too, but it would be more foolish to ignore the power PR wielded.

Particularly in Whitman's case, way too much value was placed on traditional ads and not enough on inarguable difference-makers such as social media and grassroots efforts. Voters crave that personal connection, perhaps more than ever. And you can do it without spending seven- or eight-figure sums.

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