Obama must reignite his comms mojo

President Obama swept to power two years ago on a wave of optimism about a new era in politics and a can-do attitude that would sweep aside the cynicism and bureaucracy associated with traditional Washington machinations.

President Obama swept to power two years ago on a wave of optimism about a new era in politics and a can-do attitude that would sweep aside the cynicism and bureaucracy associated with traditional Washington machinations.

However, it soon became clear Obama and his Democratic Party faced exactly the same challenges as any other incumbent in driving though their agenda and getting things done. But this week's midterm elections really underlined the point and emphasized, if anyone needed a reminder, that a second term for Obama is no longer the shoo-in it once promised to be.

The most interesting development came in Obama's press conference, when he readily admitted his communications had let him down. That's an astounding statement from someone who actively played on his superior communications skills to overcome George W. Bush in the 2008 presidential election. Now maybe Bush didn't provide much competition in the communications stakes, but there's no doubt Obama's plain-speaking and compelling presentation style definitely helped him on that occasion.

So what changed and why has Obama's communications star fallen in such a short space of time?

Well, politics is a short-term game. Citizens aren't interested in the benefits 15 years down the line of something like healthcare reform if they can't see some immediate upside for themselves. The American public is worried about jobs and the economy and it wanted more confirmation from their leader that he recognized their angst and was genuinely doing something about it. To be fair, no amount of smart communications could cover up a fundamentally flawed underlying situation, but a clear and consistent line would have helped.

The difference when he was seeking election to the presidency was that Obama had his story down pat and constantly reinforced it throughout his campaign, never straying from his chosen communications path.

My view is he needs to get back to that strategy, decide what his message is, and stick to it doggedly over the next two years, dragging his party along with him, and making sure they are propounding the same message. But if you were advising Obama on his communications strategy, what would you say to him?

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