Monday, June 2, 2008

Obama stacks that cheese

Obama's fundraising ability is unparalleled. The FEC and and media can't keep up with the number of donors and the amount of money he's raising. This article on talks about how Obama's fund raising ability is proof of The Long Tail theory. Simply put, The Long Tail theory states that, with internet technologies, companies can drastically increase revenue by selling more of less. The Bush campaign in 2004 "pioneered" a new way of fundraising through the McCain-Feingold Campaign Reform Act. Hillary used this model effectively as well. They both were excellent at getting the usual fundraisers to donate the max amount. Obama has in turn used the internet to blow the other candidates out of the water by getting record numbers of voters donating $200 or less. This article from The Atlantic gives great insight into the Obama model and the Silicon Valley supergeniuses that developed it for him. A must read for anyone who wants to know the future of campaign fundraising. Basically, Obama is revolutionizing campaign finance and checking more cheddar than the food inspector.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Gangster of the Week: Reggie Love

This week's Gangster is Obama's "Chief of Stuff" Reggie Love. He is Obama's right-hand man and personal aide. NY Times profiles him here. He helps Obama with everything and anything (besides policy). He plays a one-on-one basketball game against Obama at noon on every primary day. The guy can ball; he played football and walked on the basketball team at Duke. The NY Times article makes reference to some not so flattering photos taken of him while at Duke. God bless Gawker for finding them [NSFW]. His most important accomplishment is introducing Obama to Jay-Z, which turned into the most gangster moment of the campaign. "'So I’ve gotten pretty fond of Jay-Z,' Mr. Obama said. 'He’s broadened my horizons in the hip-hop world.'" Reggie Love, you are SYNJK's Gangster of the Week.

I think Bush has senioritis. Somebody should call his parents.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

I'm such a maverick

I read Jane Sample's Fun with Branding. At first, I thought it was a creative idea to show how many brands and how much branding affects everyone's life. So, I made my own list yesterday (I can email to you if you like, but I'm too embarrassed to show it here). I was throughly disgusted with myself. How have I let myself become such a corporate shill? Today, I tried to minimize my brands. I skipped over Seattle's Best for Stumptown. I left the iPod at home and read the Mercury on the bus. I walked instead of driving to my friend's house. I drank Ninkasi instead of Budweiser. While this won't be a regular occurrence (I can't live without my Blackberry or Tag), it was self satisfying to piss against the wind. I'm not going to get all Reed College on you, but think for yourself once in a while. These brands try and push an image of independence and self fulfillment, but in reality they are doing the opposite.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Gangster of the Week: Rahm Emanuel

I've begun a weekly column pointing out politicians, activists, journalists, staffers, businessmen, or anyone I see fit to be SYNJK's Gangster of the Week. I know I've been given the gangsters (Carville, Obama, Colbert, Cuban, etc.) their due, but this will formalize it. For the inaugural GotW, I've chosen Rahm "Rahm-bo" Emanual, the ballerina Congressman from Chicago who brought the Dems back from the brink of existence in 2006.

I was first introduced to Emanuel by this great profile piece in The Rolling Stone. His gangster status is well documented. While working in the White House, he mailed a dead fish to a pollster he didn't like. Ari Gold from Entourage is based on his brother, Ari Emanuel (In an episode, they are sitting in Ari Emanuel's $2,000 courtside seats). It is rumored that he lost his finger fighting for Israel in Syria, but he actually lost while working at Arby's in high school (I'd stick with the Israel story). My favorite Rahm Emanuel story is how, the night after Clinton's election in '92, he stood up at a celebratory dinner and called out all the Democratic betrayers of Clinton's campaign. After each name he shouted out "Dead...dead...dead...dead..." and stabbed the table with his steak knife after each name. Bad. Ass.

This is the kind of attitude the Democrats need if they are going to remain a force in national politics. His take-no-prisoners attitude is an affront to the notion that Dems are bunch of ninnies and push-overs. He stood up to Clinton and told him that fundraising needed to be his number one priority early in the campaign. Clinton listened and you can make the argument that this won him the nomination (Tsongas, Clinton's chief rival in the primaries, ran out of money cause he had to try to outspend Clinton). His strategic thinking and unbelievable fundraising power provided a net gain of 30 seats in the House when he was the DCCC chair.

He accomplishes the tasks before him, no compromises. He is angry and brash, but that's what this party needs. He's only 48, so he will be a player in Democratic politics for a long time to come. Vice President?

Probably not.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Commercial Speech v. Free Speech

The Bulldog Reporter wrote an article about an interesting and complex issue Congress is trying to tackle, pharmaceutical direct to consumer marketing. The Democrats want to restrict the pharmas from advertising direct to consumers, like TV or magazine ads. This issue gets to the heart of the first amendment and the right to free speech. On one hand, the government has the right to protect its citizens from misleading speech that could lead to a harm. On the other hand, these pharmaceutical companies have a right to express their beliefs that their product is the superior one in the market through DTC marketing. Although the United States is one of two countries in the world (New Zealand is the other) that allow DTC marketing, I don't think that this legislation will get passed and if it does it will be vetoed or eventually struck down as unconstitutional.

If I remember my Communications Law class from last summer correctly, Central Hudson v. Public Service Commission set forth a four-prong test for regulation of commercial speech. Let's see if this proposed regulation would pass the Central Hudson test:

1. Are the ads truthful and for a lawful product?
Well, there is already regulation against truthful ads and the products are legal, so this one doesn't really matter.

2. Does the government have substantial interest to be achieved by the restriction?
Yes, but. The government wants to protect consumers from being tricked into having diseases that require medication. Think restless leg syndrome, what a joke. However, the ads explicitly tell you talk to a physician not to go out and buy the drug. So, I'd say that the regulation passes this prong.

3. Does the regulation effectively and directly advance the issue?
Yes. A ban on DTC marketing would make a physician the only people who would recommend a medication, not television ads.

4. Could a lessened restriction serve the same interest?
No. Here's where it gets tricky. There are already regulations on what can and cannot be said in pharmaceutical ads that serve this interest. I believe that a ban on all DTC marketing would not serve the interest anymore than the regulations that already in place.

I believe that the courts have been fairly direct with this issue and any attempt by Congress to ban DTC marketing would get thrown out pretty quick.

As PR professionals, we must have an understanding of the laws in place so that we do not put ourselves or our employer in a position of liability. Furthermore, with a better understanding of law and specifically commercial speech, you can know the loopholes so you can provide your client with the best campaign the law allows.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

I hate Terry McAuliffe

He is the worst. He was chair of the DNC when the Dems were at their worst. He's been on the news pretty much nonstop for the past couple weeks. Talking Points Memo has an epic montage of his antics these past couple weeks...

This reminds me of someone. Oh yah...

Back on the campaign trail...

I was bored today so I decided to make a speculative list of Barack's potential vice presidents cause that's what we're all about here at SYNJK, speculation. Some other outlets have taken a stab at it (here, here, here, here).

I made a pretty exhaustive list (over 40). I cut some cause they were too old and would be counterintuitive to Obama's change message (Sen. Chris Dodd, Sen. Tom Harkin, Sen. Bob Graham. Gen. Wesley Clark, Lee Hamilton). Some are too new on the scene (Gov. Bill Ritter, Gov. Chet Cuver, Sen. John Tester). Some don't have enough national star power (Gov. Phil Bresdesen, Gov. Chris Gregoire). Some have too much political baggage that would distract the campaign (Tom Daschle, Max Cleland, Sen. John Kerry, Michael Bloomberg, Gov. Bill Richardson). Some have worked too closely with McCain (Sen. Russ Feingold, Gov. Janet Napolitano). Some are too conservative (Sen. Bob Casey, Tim Roemer). Some are too black (Rep. Deval Patrick, Ray Nagin). Some have explicitly stated they are not interested (John Edwards, Sam Nunn, Sen. Ken Salazar). Some endorsed HRC (Gov. Ted Strickland, Sen. Barbara Mikulski, Sen. Evan Bayh). And some were just a little too out there (Tom Brokaw, Keith Olbermann, Bruce Springsteen, Tim Russert, Oprah, George Clooney).

So here is my (Obama's) short list (in no particular order):

Sen. Joe Biden - The Safe Bet
Pros: The diminutive Democrat on foreign policy, one of Obama's weaknesses. His years on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee give him great self-confidence in dealing with international affairs and national security. He is very well liked in the Senate and would be a great resource in getting Obama's legislation passed. His reasoned rhetoric against neoconservatism would be a great asset on the campaign trail.
Cons: Not from a swing state, or a very populous state, Delaware, for that matter. He's a pretty cocky guy. It'd be hard for him to play second fiddle. I don't know about two Senators running together again; it didn't work out too well in 2004. His name is first on the list for Secretary of State.

Gov. Tim Kaine - The People's Champ
Pros: Populist governor from a state, Virginia, that I feel will play a pivotal role in the election. Endorsed Obama very early in the campaign. He was a Catholic missionary and is very vocal about his faith; this would be a great asset among a group that Obama is struggling with, Catholics. Notoriously tough on crime.
: Relatively conservative. He and Obama might have a tough time agreeing on some social issues (abortion, same-sex marrige, etc.). He doesn't bring anything new to the table aside from being from the South. He went to Harvard Law School like Obama and worked as a community organizer after law school like Obama. He's relatively new to politics. He doesn't bring a lot of experience to compliment Obama's lack of experience.

Gov. Kathleen Sebelius - For The Ladies
Pros: Another popular governor from a traditionally red state. Endorsed Obama early. As a woman, she could quell some of this ridiculous notion that the election was sexist. She has a great record as governor (she eliminated the $1.1 million debt she inherited when she became governor without raising taxes). She is another voice for change and would effectively push Obama's message of change. Her presence will fundamentally change the electoral map.
Cons: I'm a little apprehensive of a rainbow coalition type ticket. If a black man running as president will be tough for some voters, a woman VP won't help their confidence. A lot of people are questioning her speaking skills (she botched the Dem's State of the Union response). This could be a liability during the campaign.

Sen. Jim Webb - The Fire Ball
Pros: Like Kaine, he is popular in his home state of Virginia, which would make that state easily blue. He's a decorated Vietnam veteran and his son served in Iraq which would compliment Obama's lack of military experience. He served as Secretary of the Navy during the Reagan administration. He has been a vocal and credible opponent of the war in Iraq. He's an excellent campaigner (ran a great campaign for the Senate in 2006). He got busted for bringing a gun into the Senate (instant credibility among 2nd amendment proponents). He got the highest approval percentage out of 15 VP candidates during an exit poll after the NC and Ind. primaries
Cons: He hasn't even endorsed Obama yet (or Clinton). He has also publicly stated that he's not interested in the position.

Ret. Gen. Anthony Zinni - The Godfather
Pros: His military experience instantly transforms Obama's campaign. He now has a great shield against Republican attacks against his lack of military knowledge or national security. He would be a great liaison between the president an the military. Zinni is a special position because he is a vocal opponent of the war in Iraq and even said that his vote for Bush in 2000 was a mistake. IMHO, this guy would immediately undercut any inroads McCain made on national security and would propel Obama to the White House.
Cons: I firmly believe that the president should not be a former high ranking military official. The Commander in Chief is a civilian for specific reasons. There needs to be civilian control of the military. Also, many Washington insiders wanted him to be Kerry's VP in 2004, but he vehemently stated his desire to not hold public office. He is also being tossed around as a McCain VP.

SYNJK's Dark Horse Special...

Rep. Robert Wexler

Pros: He's from Florida and very popular in Florida. This would help cure the rift caused by the DNC not counting Florida's delegates. He's also popular within the Jewish community and a staunch supporter of Israel. Obama has struggled with gaining the support of the Jewish community. His personable style would be a great asset on the campaign trail. He's a voice for change within Congress and would be a great advocate of Obama's message. He voiced his support for Obama early in the campaign.
Cons: He's kind of a greenhorn on the political scene. He admitted to doing cocaine, because "it's a fun thing to do." Actually, that kind of honesty could be a pro.

I feel like any of those people would be great Veeps and help Obama win the election. Some people feel that the VP choice is overrated. I partly agree. There is no question that people vote for a president, not a vice president. However, the choice of VP can tell you a lot about a presidential candidate's character. It is public knowledge that during the 2004 campaign, Kerry wanted his old friend Dick Gephardt to be his VP, but he was persuaded by his advisers and the polls to choose John Edwards. Not to take anything away from John Edwards, but this encapsulated Kerry's entire campaign. Kerry lacked the conviction to be president. He should have gone with what he knew to be right. He wasn't going to win North Carolina. He would have been better served by showing voters that he will do what he believes in, not what the polls are saying.