PR pros call the 2012 election in advance for Obama

US citizens went to the polls Tuesday to decide whether to give President Barack Obama a second term in office or elect former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

US citizens went to the polls Tuesday to decide whether to give President Barack Obama a second term in office or elect former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney.

PRWeek asked a number of PR professionals and strategists who they thought would win, why, and how their communications strategy propelled them to victory. 

The respondents picked Obama by a wide margin. Tuesday night, he won reelection with more than 300 electoral votes.

Here are the predictions we compiled in 2008 and in 2004.

So, without further ado, here are predictions from PR pros on the 2012 presidential election.

Steve Lombardo, global CEO of Edelman Berland - Romney will win, but it will be very close. The president probably “won” the media cycle last week. The superstorm really big-footed media coverage of the election. Every day that the media was not talking about the economy was a good one for the president. So he had four good days that froze things for Romney. However, in the end, this election is about the economy and Romney stuck to the narrative that the country can do better than the last four years. That should be enough to carry the day in Ohio and make Romney the 45th president of the United States.”
Neil Dhillon, MD and US director of public affairs, MSL Washington DC – Advantage Obama. With a 52% approval rating and strong management of the terrible storm in New York City last week, I believe the momentum favors President Obama in the waning hours of this race. The key battleground states of Iowa, Wisconsin, Colorado, New Hampshire, Virginia, and Ohio all seem to be leaning toward Obama, and with a few remaining hours the well-organized Obama get-out-the vote efforts are in overload. On the media front, I give the major networks a lot of credit for balancing time given to the candidates and their swing state appearances over the past few days. Heck, even Fox News has been playing it fairly straight, and that never happens! The networks have kept the reporting on the latest poll tracking and campaign scheduling instead of comparing the policies of one vs. the other. After three hotly contested debates, I believe the voters know full well where the candidates stand on issues, and the networks have appropriately focused more on campaign style and events in the last few days. One major difference I see from 2008 is the amount or, rather lack, of social and digital media instituted by the campaigns. Certainly, fundraising was huge from an electronic base, but the actual distinctions on policy were more played out at the conventions, debates, and via advertising. However, a major PR disaster for the US does loom again in Florida where early voting limitations have prompted several lawsuits and heavy criticism of state officials. It just seems time and time again that this state cannot get its act together, and continuously sends an unfavorable message to the rest of the world that the US political system is broken. We know that's the not case, but it is certainly a PR nightmare nonetheless.
Carolyn Grisko, president and CEO of Grisko - Tuesday may tell us at what point people started paying attention to an election that offers a clear ideological choice. While President Barack Obama's message of moving forward, steady progress, and investment in education and infrastructure may not be electrifying, it has been consistent. Mitt Romney's emergence in the last weeks of the campaign as a centrist, rather than the self-described “severe conservative” who emerged from the primaries, may leave voters wondering about his commitment to a core set of values. The words that come out of a candidate's own mouth are ultimately the ones that resonate. I feel that American voters will stick with the president for another term.
Jim Papa, SVP and MD of Global Strategy Group – Obama. As soon as the Republican primary ended, the Obama campaign and its allies, such as the pro-Obama Super PAC Priorities USA, effectively defined Mitt Romney as someone who favors the wealthiest few at the expense of regular, middle class families. As evidence, they cited Romney's tenure at Bain Capital, his skewed tax-cut proposal, and his own words, such as “corporations are people” and “I like to fire people.” Then, Romney helped solidify that negative image when video emerged of him telling a private audience of wealthy donors that it was “his job not to worry about” 47% of the people. While Romney experienced a comeback following the first debate, he was in too deep a hole. Headed into Election Day, the NBC News/Wall Street Journal survey of likely voters taken November 1-3 showed the president leading Romney 51% to 40% on the question of who would better look out for the middle class. That statistic is the result of a disciplined communications plan that used a consistent message and drumbeat of evidence points to influence its target audience across all platforms of earned and paid media.

Christina Reynolds, MD of Glover Park Group and former rapid response director for the Obama 2008 campaign and director of media affairs in the Obama White House - I predict an Obama victory in large part because they've used their communications efforts to shift the campaign from one that was a referendum on the first term to a choice between two very different philosophies and policies moving forward. While I'm a proud supporter of the Obama record, a referendum election during this tough economy would have meant a likely loss. Instead, the campaign has used speeches, its surrogates, and the convention to drive a message focused on an America that's all in it together, moving forward — a direct contrast to Mitt Romney's “we built this” message.

Helene Solomon, CEO of Solomon McCown & Co. - As I wake up to the news coverage of today's election, I am struck by how close the election still is. As a Boston based firm that lives at the intersection of business and public policy, we've had a unique vantage point having watched Mitt Romney operate up close as governor.  When all is said and done, I believe President Obama will win. Here's why: The president came out of the national convention with a clarity of message, a table that was set in a fiery speech by Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick – the first to really define the president's successes, and an economics lesson based on “arithmetic” delivered by former President Bill Clinton. The convention bump propelled the ground troops, and this will make the difference today in get out the vote.

“There are 47% of the people who will vote for the president no matter what…who are dependent upon government…who pay no income tax…my job is not to worry about those people…” Mitt Romney's harsh comments revealed his unvarnished true feelings about half of America and put him on defense.  

Sandy gave the president the chance to be presidential, the Obama-Chris Christie “Bromance,” and maybe more importantly took the campaign out of the headlines for a critical week.

Bill Black, senior partner and co-chair of the global public affairs practice at Fleishman-Hillard - I believe President Barack Obama will win the election. Since it will be close, there will be an infinite number of reasons for his victory. But the key communications element was his campaign's success in making this a “choice” election, rather than a “referendum.” The Obama campaign devoted enormous communications resources during the summer defining Mitt Romney in a negative way and focused those efforts to the key swing states. It was this key strategic decision that allowed him to weather the negative consequences of the poor performance in the first debate. While Romney was able to rehabilitate himself in the country generally, his boost from that debate was diminished in the swing states where the Obama campaign had succeeded in defining Romney as unsuited to be president. Thus, the president was able to run, not on his record, but as an alternative to Romney. Because of Romney's weaknesses as a candidate (see “47%”), Obama will be able to win, albeit narrowly.
Jamie Moeller, director of the global public affairs practice at Ogilvy Public Relations - President Obama wins with just barely 50% of the popular vote, but with a comfortable margin in the Electoral College. Unlike 2008 when his election was the result of unrelenting message discipline focused on hope and change, he will owe his reelection to shrewd audience segmentation. By targeting swing voters with a barrage of attacks on Mitt Romney, the Obama campaign created lasting doubts about a Romney presidency among a critical target audience. At the same time, the campaign maintained a singular focus on the most important target audience -- base voters in the eight swing states. By constantly communicating with them and getting them to the polls, President Obama pulls off a surprisingly convincing Electoral College victory.
Mike Hillegass, MD at Qorvis – President Obama's going to win a nail-biter, largely because Sandy dominated the media and drowned out coverage of Romney (no pun intended). Also Christie's comments supporting Obama and realization that government provides important services will pull independents back to Obama (this is on top of generally improving economic indicators).
Michael Robinson, EVP at Levick - Gov. Mitt Romney has the far superior message, one of hope and prosperity. And it - and he - will ultimately prevail. As the challenger, Romney has skillfully called into question President Barack Obama's record over the last four years - and at the same time offered a vision of the future that is grounded in his record and aspires to the hopes and dreams of Americans across the country.
Rich Klein, founder of The Crisis Show – I think Obama will win a close race mainly because voters will decide in the end on likeability and trust. Exit polls will also likely show that women overwhelmingly voted Democratic in light of Romney-Ryan plans to cut access to women's healthcare, including preventive screenings performed by Planned Parenthood. Finally, that 47% remark was never overcome by the Romney camp, and I think many middle class voters will have that in mind when voting."

Scott Widmeyer, chairman and CEO of Widmeyer Communications - Hurricane Sandy was truly a superstorm. It devastated much of the East Coast and brought a halt to Romney's momentum. By mid-week last week, America was seeing first-hand that government can work and does work during tough times like Sandy, and through presidential leadership a la Obama. New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie did everything but jump ship and endorse Obama thanks to the president's relief message to New Jersey. That said, I am still predicting a close election. I give Obama 276 electoral votes to 262 for Romney. I think Romney will win Florida and Virginia but he will not have the upper hand he needs in other key states. The Senate will remain in Democratic hands and Tammy Baldwin will become the first out lesbian in the US Senate by beating Tommy Thompson tonight in Wisconsin. The GOP will hold the House, and likely pick up a few seats. Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi may exit her leadership role in the coming weeks. Bottom line: there's a lot to accomplish in Washington, so gridlock needs to die and real work on the economy, healthcare, energy, education, and infrastructure needs to get moving after four years of being held hostage.
Bill Wohl, former CCO at Hewlett-Packard - The country will be transfixed by a very late night tonight, as this close election will be too close to call for many hours.  Then we will wake up to learn that most incumbents have been re-elected and the very real possibility of more years of grid-lock in Washington are our sobering new reality.
Marc Ross, communications director at the US-China Business Council – Obama 303, Romney 235.
Cessie Cerrato, PR manager at Palace Resorts - As a PR pro with more than seven years in the industry, I predict President Barack Obama will be re-elected. People tend to fear the unknown, stick to what they know, even if it the present hasn't benefited them, per say. Americans will continue to vote for what they know, simply because the majority of people are uncomfortable with change. The first time he was reelected, we needed a new president because President Bush's term was up. So, either way we forced to pick someone new. But, now that he is up for reelection, it's easier to just give him four more years and stick to what you know, since for many Americans, the fear of the unknown is much worse that the present state. Obama and his team of campaigners and speech writers are really good at what they do. Obama himself is eloquent, speaks well, addresses a public seamlessly and has an excellent team of speech writers who help him communicate the message that the majority of America wants to hear. He in turn, is an excellent speaker and brings those very well written speeches to life with his charisma and likeability.

Darby Duffin, founder and principal of On a Mission Media - Romney will win with 300-plus electoral votes. If I had to specify, I'll say 316 – but wouldn't be shocked if it were closer to 330. Why? So many reasons here, but here's the most important reason: unfulfilled promises. The "hope and change" movement of 2008 has revealed that it was built on empty campaign slogans rather than actual results. Voters looked at then candidate Barack Obama as embodying an almost a prophet-like figure who would bring about peace, prosperity, and healing to America – and the world. Yet, four years later, President Obama's record reveals $6 trillion in new debt, millions more on food stamps, 40-plus straight months of 8%-plus unemployment, shaky foreign policy, no immigration reform, and healthcare reform that divided a nation and was at the epicenter for the historic 2010 mid-term defeat of Democrats. For a president who promised to unite, not divide, his administration has proven to utilize the same old "divide and conquer" strong-arm tactics that have perpetuated gridlock in Washington for decades. Lack of Leadership aka No Responsibility. The American people acknowledged that Obama was dealt a tough hand when he assumed office in January 2009 and he was granted a healthy amount of patience. But, four years later, the continuing weak economy brings back visions of 1976 and President Jimmy Carter's "great malaise."

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