President Obama’s recent speech to the graduating class at the Air Force Academy highlighted one of the many reasons that it is very difficult to defeat an incumbent President running for a second term.
Among other advantages, a sitting President has the opportunity to make speeches that are guaranteed to get local and often national coverage. These speeches need to talk about the event, but they can also make powerful campaign points, fully taking advantage of the free publicity.
That advantage is fairly obvious to most people. But what may not be as clear is how much this advantage is magnified in 2012.
When the last sitting President was running for re-election, George W. Bush in 2004, obviously the media on the web was already a big deal. But we didn’t see portions of speeches on as many platforms, lasting for as many news cycles as we do right now.
This ever-expanding multi-media environment magnifies each speaking opportunity to make impressions on voters across the country.
Another key advantage of Presidential speeches during an election year is that they inherently sound “presidential”. That may sound very simple, but think about how hard it is for candidates to create the right “presidential” tone. It is much harder than it appears.
Usually, a candidate might be able to strike a presidential chord on particular issues, but most of the time, they simply sound like a candidate running for office.
Sounding presidential may not appear to be that important because it isn’t a slated reason from voters on why they vote for certain candidates. But remember that the election will be decided by middle of the road, independent voters. That particular group of voters can be swayed by how they feel about a candidate, and if they feel that a candidate sounds “presidential”, it can make a difference. We may not want to admit, but in our hearts, we know it to be true.
Finally, there is one more reason that in 2012, a sitting President has a greater advantage than ever before when getting publicity from speeches that are within his current job description. Like the ever-expanding multimedia environment that can make speeches live on long after a standard news cycle, so can the newly powerful SuperPACs.
SuperPACs are simply much bigger, faster and grittier versions of the candidate campaign structures. They can capitalize on the timing and topic of any speech and use it for various campaign purposes very quickly.
If President Obama is speaking as the President to Air Force cadets about foreign policy victories, SuperPACs can pounce on the opportunity to hit the airwaves with ads about the same subject matter to back up the free press. The same could be true if he were making an official speech about economy issues in a foreign country. Ads about economic development could hit the airwaves immediately afterwards.
So while it is fairly common knowledge that being an incumbent and getting official speaking opportunities is a major advantage when running for re-election, in 2012, that advantage takes on a special feel.
Between the new media environment, SuperPACs and the opportunity to sound “presidential”, defeating a sitting President is even harder than it used to be.
Like Mel Brooks said in History of the World, Part 1, “It’s good to be the king.”
About The Blogger
- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.