Echoes of Bennet 2010 in Obama 2012

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Sen. Michael Bennet celebrates his win in the 2010 Senate race while his daughter Caroline (L), daughter Halina (R) and his wife Susan Daggett (2nd R) listen in Denver's City Park on Nov. 3. (credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Sen. Michael Bennet celebrates his win in the 2010 Senate race while his daughter Caroline (L), daughter Halina (R) and his wife Susan Daggett (2nd R) listen in Denver’s City Park on Nov. 3. (credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

When U.S. Senator Michael Bennet ran for U.S. Senate in 2010, he surprised many by executing a campaign that was successful in a national climate that was leaning Republican. The strategies employed in that campaign have seemingly become a model for the Obama 2012 campaign in Colorado, at least in these early stages.

The first sign that the Bennet campaign has become a model for the Obama campaign is the new TV ad focused on Mitt Romney’s stance on funding for Planned Parenthood. The ad also asserts that Romney wants to overturn Roe v. Wade and is a direct appeal to women voters based on a very emotional issue.

Romney’s stance on blocking funding for Planned Parenthood is not a new issue. But the new ad is focused on turning women voters off of Romney by making him look like someone who is coming after their reproductive freedoms.

The ad reminds me a great deal of the very effective ad the Bennet campaign ran that attacked Republican Ken Buck over his stance on abortion. Bennet’s campaign beat Buck mercilessly on issues like abortion and a controversial rape case. They were emotional ads built to turn women away from Buck.

Obviously the ads for Bennet worked since he overwhelmingly carried the women vote in a race that he won by an overall slim margin. Essentially, by focusing on emotional social issues, Bennet was able to win a race even in an environment that was not naturally going his way.

Another successful strategy from the Bennet campaign that wasn’t exactly new, but was indeed effective, was concentrating on attacking, attacking and attacking your opponent. Imagine a brutal fight where one fighter is swinging so often and so ruthlessly that they never let their opponent catch their breath or get their footing. That is the basic strategy employed here.

Even though we are four months away from Election Day the barrage of ads from the Obama campaign look like they plan on employing the same strategy. Whether it is Romney’s association with Bain Capital or his stance on abortion, the Obama campaign is flooding the airwaves with various attack ads on his opponent.

This isn’t a new strategy and it isn’t like Romney is simply sitting back and taking the hits without hitting back. But if you look at the Romney ads, you see a direct difference between those ads and the ones from the Obama camp. Romney is attacking Obama on the economy and for his attack ads about Romney. We haven’t seen ads about social issues or ads that are directed to certain pivotal voting groups.

The differences in ads are another commonality to the Bennet v. Buck race. The Buck campaign stayed on economic issues that polls showed general voters cared about. The Bennet campaign attacked on social issues and aimed for very specific emotional responses.

Based on the success of the Bennet campaign, I think we will see more of this trend from the Obama camp. It is not a guaranteed path to a win and it is not a strategy that is impossible to defeat. But these early trends do provide a road map to what is likely to come.

If President Obama indeed wins a second term, a thank you note to Bennet’s 2010 campaign manager should be one of the first things he does after Election Night.
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.

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