Bummer Sticker

Is that all you got?
Bumper stickers are supposed to carry the ultimate crystallization of a political campaign’s message. That’s why the arrival of my Barack Obama bumper sticker in the mail caused me to worry anew about whether Obama’s messaging operation is up to the difficult task ahead of it.

The bumper sticker that I got in the mail in recognition of my modest contribution to the Obama campaign simply read “2012,” with the swooshy “O” logo and website url. That’s it.

To me, that says the Obama communications team is not sure what to say to motivate swing voters. Because simply stating the election year does absolutely no framing, messaging, or motivating.

This is a team that used to be pretty darn good at bumper sticker messaging. “Hope,” “Change,” “Yes, We Can.”

Now their message is reduced to a “hold the date” reminder. Really gets the old adrenalin flowing.

Granted, messaging is much easier when you are a challenger running in a discontented country than an incumbent running in a discontented country. Therefore, it stands to reason that messaging was easier for Obama then than now.

But how about at least trying to frame the overall election choice?

Or a bookend set:

Obama’s army of talented message gurus can do better than these lame directional examples, and better than “2012.” Yes they can.

– Loveland

18 thoughts on “Bummer Sticker

  1. I got mine in the mail a while ago and I sorta wondered the same thing. It made me wonder if there weren’t truth to the rumors that Joe Biden and Hillary Clinton would swap places, putting Hillary in the VP slot.

  2. PM. says:

    Maybe they are commenting on the imminent end of the world, according to the Mayan calendar (which has to be right, because Fred Camping got it wrong again last Friday…)

  3. Joe Loveland says:

    I would be feel better if there was ANY strategy behind it, even a wacky one like musical chairs or Mayan scare tactics. The enterprise feels a bit rutterless right now.

    If I were Hillary, I’d sure view State-to-VP as a step down.

  4. Newt says:

    Fascinating – I didn’t know there were any Obama supporters left. Or at least any who dared proclaim their support publicly, even on a bumper sticker.

    Mondale-Ferraro 2.0

    1. Joe Loveland says:

      Yeah, the Obama bumper stickers are difficult to spot in the sea of Romney and Newt stickers on the road, but they’re out there.

  5. Jim Leinfelder says:

    Yeah, you don’t have to be a semiotician to divine the subtext there. Might as well have gone with: “Watch This Space.”

      1. Joe Loveland says:

        You’re correct, Festus. “Candidate name – election year” is the standard issue formula. I’m just suggesting we could ask more of our bumper sticker gurus. A little creativity and strategic framing maybe?

  6. PM. says:

    So how do you create a bumper sticker (or even a campaign slogan) that encompasses this?

    by and large, people are worried, they feel the system is rigged against them (OWS and tea party), they realize that things have gotten worse, they distrust all parts of government, they don’t think that any part of government is capable of solving the problems they see facing the country.

    Basically, it seems to me that Obama is left trying to say that he is less bad than any of the other alternatives. How do you make that inspiring?

    1. Joe Loveland says:

      PM, I think you’re correct about “less bad.” That’s why I think they need to frame the choice, not the candidate. It won’t be inspiring. It will be a war of attrition.

      1. PM. says:

        Well, at least it is clear that he has the money to do a negative campaign. And, for that matter, it appears that the republican primaries are giving him plenty of material.

      2. PM. says:

        As an illustration of what Obama has to work with…..


        what give Obama this amazing opportunity is that the republican “base”, republican “elites” and the republican rank and file voters are all so far out of whack with each other!:


        If Obama can exploit these huge gaps, he can win big.

  7. John Gaterud says:

    Fight Not for What You Believe—Settle for What You Can Get. (And If Not That, Then Cave.)

    —Courtesy Bill Keller, NYT

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