Burson-Marsteller CEO Mark Penn - who many consider to be the architect of Clinton's strategy - said it was the money. Journalist Michael Kinsey claimed it was transparently fake umbrage. Journalists Mark Halperin and John F. Harris claimed it was Clinton's disaffection among the elites. Politician Heather Wilson alleged sexism. I could, in eight more sentences, report eight additional causes. The correct answer, of course, is no one knows, and no one ever will.
While this makes for some compelling reading, nothing stated above alters the fact that Barack Obama is the presumptive Democratic nominee.
This protracted nomination campaign has proven that the political media establishment is not so much interested in facts as it is in the horse race and the process.
This has practical implications for all organizations and industries. As goes political campaigns, so goes the world. If you remember, 2004 was the year of the blog in political coverage. Try going 36 hours without saying that word in 2008.
PR pros need to look at the media establishment as an entity that is less dogged in its pursuit of facts as it is on the subjective commentary sometimes wrapped around facts. Analysis comes first, second, and third. Facts might make an appearance after the commercial break. As news continues to become commoditized (scoops being left to blogs and, less so than in the past, print news outlets), less time is given to any situation's facts and more to speculation.
While I obviously advocate that PR pros use facts as the core of messaging claims, it is apparent today that depending on facts alone is a folly. To think having the facts on your side means you will win an argument is to know your client/boss will be disappointed with the results.
Emotional sentiment is the currency in the news market today, and those who can make the case for the compelling arc will get the coverage. Think about the Dubai Ports situation. Of course some politician was going to score easy points decrying the deal as a plot to sell our security. Ignored in the clamor was: a) the UAE - which backed the company buying the ports - was an ally; b) the ports were already owned by a foreign company; and c) the US government would - and forever will - control security of the ports.
In this case, DP World and President George W. Bush, a supporter of the deal, had the "facts." But that could not compete with the narrative. The media was complicit in that discussion. So the lesson for PR pros appears to be: Make sure your facts are straight, but don't waste too much time discussing them.