Opinion

Obama's winning strategy | Rich Elfers

What political strategy did President Obama use to win re-election?

In order to win big stakes elections in America, it’s necessary to frame your opponent in an unfavorable light. Your opponent tries to do the same thing to you. Whoever is more successful in framing their opponent will win the election.

Of course, there are other factors like having enough money to do that. While it should be obvious to all after this election that money can’t always buy enough votes to win, without money a candidate can’t get his/her message out to the public.

President Obama was very effective in framing Gov. Romney as an elitist rich guy who had no understanding or concern for the poor and middle class. The governor had to also overcome his 47 percent of the population paying-no-taxes remark, which made it even more difficult. Obama portrayed Romney as another George W. Bush. These were very effective techniques, whether they were accurate or not.

Additionally, Obama was masterful in pointing out how Romney said one thing to win the conservative base during the Republican primaries and then had to switch over to win the moderates and independents in the general election.

Obama did not have that problem because there was no real Democratic primary. He portrayed Romney as a flip-flopper — a framing label that Republicans usually use against Democrats.

The attempts by the Republicans to portray Obama as a socialist tax-and-spend radical who got us into this recession was not as effective because most people knew Obama inherited an $8 trillion financial mess when he took office. Based on the results of the election they were willing to cut him some slack and give him another term.

America is really center-right politically. The candidate who can successfully focus on that demographic will win the national election. Obama spent his whole time focusing on that group. Romney really was never able to until the first debate.

In the presidential election, facts don’t matter much except to the political junkies who know the truth. What wins elections is how effectively the candidate frames himself and his opponent. Whoever is more effective in doing that will win.

The lesson we citizens should get from these elections is that we need to look behind the framing to understand who the candidates really are. That requires a willingness to ignore the negative political ads and to look more deeply for the things that really matter. Does that candidate have integrity? Does he have the skills and experience? Can she be trusted to do the job? Does that candidate really care about the citizens or is this really an attempt to aggrandize and serve themselves? Usually, candidates are both concerned about the public and also want to serve themselves.

These questions are not easy to answer. They require political sophistication and a willingness to look beyond the superficial. Yet, without that sophistication, we are doomed to rely upon luck to find the best candidate and to have good government.

An educated electorate serves democracy better than voters who are ignorant about the use of framing. It’s time for all Americans to become discerning voters.

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