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Mark McKinnon on McCain’s Advertising Strategy

Mark McKinnon was the genius behind Bush’s 2004 media strategy. The Bush campaign successfully portrayed Bush as “a strong leader in a time of change” while redefining Kerry as “weak, waffling, and weird.” For more, see the clip above, with McKinnon discussing how they turned 9/11 and metaphors about the “war on terror” to the Bush campaign’s advantage.

So does this sound familiar? It’s the exact strategy that McCain is applying so effectively in his recent advertising blitz. McKinnon also directed McCain’s media strategy up through the primaries, and then in a rare moment of modern day political chivalry, stepped down because of his admiration for Barack Obama. “I would simply be uncomfortable being in a campaign that would be inevitably attacking Barack Obama,” said McKinnon. “I think it would be uncomfortable for me, and I think it would be bad for the McCain campaign.”

So McCain went forward and hired Rove & McKinnon’s junior colleagues to run his general election bid. Here’s what McKinnon has to say about the McCain strategy so far.

Mark McKinnon, a media strategist and former McCain adviser who worked for both of Mr Bush’s campaigns, said of the advertisements: “I think they’ve crystallised their message and I think they’re hitting a nerve.”

Political advertising is effective, he added, when it ties into an overall narrative. In this case, the message has been framed in a positive and negative way: that Mr McCain puts “country first”, while Mr Obama puts “Obama first”. The theme was repeated in a McCain advertisement rel­eased on Wednesday, showing flashing cameras and crowds chanting “Obama” as a voice asks, “Is the biggest celebrity in the world ready to help your family?”

Back in April, after Romney had pulled ahead of his GOP presidential competitors for good, I wrote about Romney’s penchant, a la Donald Trump and other mega millionaires, to reframe […]

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