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Thursday 28 August 2014

In the end, it all boiled down to who was the best communicator

Frank Luntz

Published 08/11/2012 | 05:00

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If you don't empathise, you don't win. The simple truth is that from the presidential election right down through the Senate and House races, the best communicator won nine times out of 10.

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The public engaged emotionally on a number of issues: the economy and job creation, the role of government in the life of the nation, debt, deficits, taxation, spending, health care and immigration -- and that's only a partial list.

Mitt Romney addressed with great aplomb the challenges facing the American people, but there is a more visceral question that guides Americans when they walk into the voting booth: does this person truly understand them? Can they relate to what my neighbours, my family and I are going through?

As John Kerry learned in 2004, it is not easy being the rich guy running for office.

Mr Romney's galling lack of communication awareness on the campaign trail certainly did not help his cause. What's that, Governor, you like firing people? You collected "binders full of women" as governor?

You get the point. And if you don't, you won't get elected. Mr Romney failed to answer the simple but substantive question: what do you do? The thousands of jobs he created at Bain Capital was indeed defensible, but he utterly failed to defend it.

Instead, Barack Obama painted him as a ruthless, job-exporting baron. The campaign ads had one message: "This is a man who destroys American jobs instead of creating them."

For the 23 million Americans underemployed or out of work, this message worked. Truth or fiction doesn't matter -- the message resonated.

You need to want to be a leader of the entire country. Mr Obama went on a brutal attack over Mr Romney's "47pc" remark -- that 47pc will never vote for him because they care more about their benefits than doing what's right for America.

Mr Romney should have stepped up, addressed it, admitted it was a mistake -- and then clarified. He didn't. And he never really recovered.

Mr Obama was beatable, but not by this candidate.

Frank Luntz is an American political consultant and pollster who has worked for Newt Gingrich and other Republican politicians. He specialises in running voter focus groups and has consulted in both Britain and the US

Irish Independent

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