When the books are closed on the 2012 presidential election, which campaign message will have prevailed, “Forward” or “Believe in America?” “Osama bin Laden is dead and GM is alive?” or “We can do better?”
Hours before polls closed in most states, PRWeek conducted an unscientific survey of PR professionals, and most said President Barack Obama will be reelected. Most predicted that the race will be close, and many said Republican candidate Mitt Romney will not be able to overcome his “47%” remarks that became public in September.
However, when one of the candidates finally concedes late tonight – or whenever the legal challenges end – many people will remember the way the candidates delivered their messages as much as the messages themselves. For one, if Romney loses, many pundits will say he was never able to rebound from the 47% video, which reinforced the perception that he is an out-of-touch businessman uninterested in helping others. On the other hand, if voters decide to replace the president with Romney, Democrats will agonize over Obama's listless and seemingly uninterested debate performance for years.
Or, if Obama pulls out the win, many will credit former President Bill Clinton's speech at the Democratic National Convention as much as anything the incumbent did to help himself.
The winning campaign's message inevitably will go down in history along with “It's the economy, stupid,” “Morning in America,” and the other great election themes of campaigns past. But message discipline and preparation will have played just as important a role in the 2012 vote.