Media bias or strategy error? Clinton's fall splits lobbyists

Hillary Clinton's former international media co-ordinator has hit out at the press, alleging unprecedented bias towards presidential nominee Barack Obama.

Clinton listens to Obama
Clinton listens to Obama

Steve Morgan, who was employed by Clinton to brief the foreign press, said his candidate was the victim of ‘media vehemence'. But others have attributed Clinton's downfall to the ‘micro-targeting' strategy employed by campaign chief and Burson-Marsteller CEO Mark Penn.

Veteran UK lobbyist Morgan worked on campaigns for Al Gore and John Kerry before joining the Clinton team earlier this year.

Speaking this week, he said that Obama ran a ‘very good campaign', but claimed the US media's hero-worship of the young senator gave Obama the edge.

He said: ‘This is my third US presidential campaign and the first time I've seen such levels of adoration from the media for a candidate. Along came Obama with his uplifting and captivating message of change and hope, and suddenly the fearsome press pack rolled over to have their tummies tickled, and Clinton was in trouble.'

But Ledbury Group director Malcolm Gooderham had an alternative explanation for Clinton's failure to win the nomination.

Gooderham focused on Penn's well-known practice of ‘micro-targeting' small min­orities of voters. ‘It is pretty sophisticated stuff, identifying audiences and what matters to them and grouping them by issue and by postcode,' he said.

‘But we can see it is not a strategy substitute and critically does not add up to a campaign that makes a "gut values connection" with voters.'

Gooderham added that Clinton's campaign came across as ‘technocratic and uninspiring' compared with Obama's ‘thematic and aspirational' speeches.

It has previously been rep­orted that Downing Street is interested in using the services of Penn, but Number 10 has insisted there are no plans to replace current pollster Deborah Mattinson.

Steve Morgan
Chair, Morgan Allen Moore

Steve MorganThis is the first time I've seen such levels of adoration from the media for a candidate.

Lee Cowan, NBC's political reporter, encapsulated many journalists' mindset on Obama in January with a remarkable admission that: ‘It is hard to stay objective covering this guy.'

Clinton ran a good campaign. She campaigned on the issues that concern ordinary Americans and her messages resonated with them, especially in deprived and lower middle class areas.

Obama successfully ran a campaign focused on a broader message of change that excited the US and international media.

One cannot help think that while Obama ran a very good cam­paign, all his positive press gave him that slight margin of victory.

Malcolm Gooderham
Director, Ledbury Group

Malcolm GooderhamPolitics is not about policies. It is about values. That is what we can take away from the success of Obama and the failure of Clinton.

His triumph marks a stark reversal of fortunes. Clinton was the shoo-in candidate with everything seemingly stacked in her favour. Hiring Mark Penn brought a state-of-the-art approach to campaigning and in-depth polling or ‘micro-targeting'.

However, her campaign has highlighted the fallibility of this strategy. While Clinton preached about policy and her credentials, Obama appealed to voters' instincts and values.

Critically, if voters' cannot relate to the values of a politician they will not trust their policies - no matter how detailed.

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