Election 2012: Q&A with Bruce Newman, Former Clinton White House Adviser

Dr. Bruce Newman, in his DePaul University office. (Photo by Vince Floress)

By Vince Floress and James Fegan
The Red Line Project

Posted: Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2012

A self-described “student of politics,” Bruce Newman has been teaching others in the ways of political marketing for 32 years. He is editor-in-chief of The Journal of Political Marketing, and holds a Ph.D. in the subject.

Newman’s career has seen him tour internationally as a lecturer, and author more than 15 books, many of which have been translated into multiple languages. Far from being limited to the academic world, Newman served as an adviser to the Clinton White House, and also to Lech Walesa during his term as President of Poland.

Newman, a professor at DePaul University, recently shared his thoughts on the upcoming presidential election.

Q: What are we analyzing when we talk about “political marketing”?

The effectiveness of the marketing of any politician culminates in an image that’s created for that person. The successful candidate is able to project a sense of leadership.

Q: How do Super-PACs play into campaigns?

My understanding–and I don’t have hard, fast evidence about this–is that the campaign organization is in charge of all monies spent.  [They're] in touch with, in communication with, the PACs, and work with them to ensure that monies are spent correctly.

Q: If you took over the marketing for Mitt Romney, how would you fix his campaign?

Develop a series of brainstorming sessions with leaders across sectors of society–political, social, cultural, economic, foreign policy [etc.] Use this as an advertising technique to convince the American people that [Romney] has the support of necessary leaders. By doing this, it would hit upon Obama’s great weakness, which is the promise to bring people together.

Q: You’ve been critical of Obama’s lack of a compelling slogan. Why do you feel they’re so important and why has Obama’s failed?

Slogans capture the emotion in a campaign. “Change We Can” has emotion attached to it. The word “Forward”, his slogan now, has no emotion. Every commercial the candidates put up might be 30-60 seconds; they don’t have too much time to talk about too much. We know in advertising that there’s repetitive impact from using the same ideas over and over.

Q: What does selecting Paul Ryan do for the Romney campaign?

I think it was a mistaken choice because it pushes him farther over on the right. Certainly a moderate, as opposed to a right-wing conservative, could have allowed [Romney] to position himself in a better light to the key segment of swing-voters, independent voters, that they need in order to win the presidency.

Q: Is Obama’s marketing team superior to Romney’s?

Each [campaign] has had their challenges, but the Obama marketing campaign is clearly superior in their ability to deal with crisis on a day-to-day basis. The Romney campaign is not able to deal with crisis as efficiently. It’s a question of putting your opponent on defense, and taking the offense, because that’s what dictates and determines the message that comes out in the news every night.

Q: How much of a factor can the debates be?

Debates now matter for Romney because he’s so far behind in the national polls, so far behind in the swing states, his only ability now to win this campaign is to do well in that first debate. Obama’s a great orator, but I don’t know that he’s a great debater. I think he has a greater command of the facts, and better able to communicate that than Romney.  But Romney is a Harvard-educated lawyer, MBA. He didn’t get to where he’s at because of good looks. He’s a pretty bright fellow.

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