Obama gets modern America better than Romney

In the end the 2012 presidential election turned out to have a relatively tame ending.

In the end the 2012 presidential election turned out to have a relatively tame ending.

The exit polls showed positive signs for the incumbent president from very early on and the mood in the camp was clearly celebratory from about 8pm onwards. The signal for the real party to begin came when the networks started calling Ohio for Obama at about 11.15pm.

Only the old curmudgeon Karl Rove tried to hold back the tide, King Canute-style, with his embarrassing intervention questioning the timing of the Fox decision desk's call on Ohio. Everyone knows each network has its own political stance or philosophical view of events, but it does make you wonder whether having someone so closely associated with a major super PAC has too much of a stake in the game to be a credible pundit – even on Fox.

Even Rove's fellow Fox contributor, former George W. Bush press secretary Dana Perino, admitted to an audience of PR pros at the annual IPR dinner Thursday evening that the “Republicans got at an ass whipping on Tuesday night.”

The Obama campaign won through superb organization on the ground backed up by super smart data analytics, and a message that resonated better with women, Latinos, and young people. The overall vote count was tight and the Republicans retained control of the House, so the real hard work starts now for Obama and Co - but the presidential result was never in any real doubt on the day.

We are often told the smartest and most groundbreaking communications work is done in the political space, and that individuals with experience of this hothouse environment are highly sought after in the private sector. But surely the Romney camp could have benefited from a bit of good old-fashioned marketing and data analytics smarts in its assessment of the modern American voter.

You can't disparage the rights of half the population and then expect women to come out and vote for you in numbers. And even the slowest marketer has read latest Census returns and noticed the profile of the American populace changing. Latinos are the fastest-growing section of the electorate and an influential group that has strong views on democracy and wants to be involved in the process.

Young people cannot just be written off as a generation that feels entitled and doesn't have dreams and ambition. Quite the contrary – they know precisely what they want and they have the talent and drive to go out and get it. They don't like being patronized.

The legalization of marijuana and introduction of gay marriage in some states were two other signs of what modern America looks like – and it's not an America voters see reflected in the make-up of the current GOP.

Sitting alongside Perino at the same IPR event, former Burson-Marsteller CEO and now Microsoft corporate VP Mark Penn identified four lessons for communicators gleaned from the election campaign.

None of them are rocket science, but they are worth repeating. First he observed that politics had become as combative as cable TV and that this election had come down to choices rather than big ideas, mirroring the combat we saw across all the TV networks on Tuesday night.

Second, citing Romney's unfortunate “47%” speech that was caught on tape and subsequently went public, no speech is off the record. Perino believes this moment decided the election.

Third, nobody can be counted on in politics. Penn was referring to New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who was given a prime speaking slot at the GOP convention and then, days before the electorate went to the polls, stood side by side with Obama after the President had visited the hurricane-ravaged region and gave him the most glowing of tributes.

Penn's fourth and final observation was that reporters just want to be part of the story, citing CNN chief political correspondent Candy Crowley and her “unprecedented” intervention in the second debate when she corrected a statement Romney made. Sitting beside him, Perino concurred and gleefully explained how much she had enjoyed unfollowing swathes of horrible hacks on Twitter after the election that she no longer needed to engage with.

Well, that's as maybe. But the media landscape has also changed exponentially. Most people combined TV channel hopping on Tuesday night with rapt attention to Twitter and other social media. The latter drove the conversation and agenda. Fox probably got its highest ratings of the evening in the time after Rove's meltdown, due to the avalanche of tweets about the car-crash TV moment and its follow-on.

The only remaining question after that was why Romney's camp hadn't read the runes and knocked a concession speech together, rather than forcing us all to stay up for another couple of hours before the night's performance was truly complete.

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