In a panel discussion last night following Feisel Abdul Rauf’s appearance on CNN Larry King Live, host Anderson Cooper and new primetime personalities Kathleen Parker and Eliot Spitzer framed Rauf’s compelling interview as apparently futile, the instant conclusion being that Rauf’s message “wouldn’t change any minds.” [Video Below.]
Yet for analysts as savvy and experienced as Parker and Spitzer, they dramatically miss the mark in assessing Rauf’s goal and potential impact. Rarely, if ever, in politics does a campaign change people’s minds. Instead of convincing Dems to vote for a Republican or a Republican to vote for a Democrat, effective campaign messages generally reinforce the commitment of supporters while appealing to middle segments of independent voters who are still relatively inattentive to a campaign and have yet to form a strong opinion in the race.
Similarly, Rauf’s media blitz is intended to engage the likely 50-60% of Americans who have heard about the debate, but have not been following the issue closely and have yet to form a strong opinion, but with his return, may now be tuning in, paying closer attention to coverage, or searching online for more information.
You can watch Spitzer and Parker’s off target analysis below. They go on to discuss several more accurate and revealing points, but the lead frame for the audience is that Rauf’s message will make little difference in the debate. In this sense, if Rauf fails to have an impact, it may be because major outlets such as CNN have created a self-fulfilling prophecy: Pundits instantly deem his efforts as limited and as a result news organizations almost immediately begin to give his message less and less attention, returning instead to the inflamed polarization that existed before his return to the United States.
What do readers think? Do you find Rauf’s message compelling? Is CNN short-cutting his ability to engage Americans with instant speculation about his limited impact?