Kickoff To 2012: A Redux Of 1980’s Most Memorable Lines

Michael Bitzer

Romney’s visit to Charlotte to “prebut” Obama’s upcoming September acceptance speech made headlines, but on the same day the Romney campaign released a second blow against the president, in the guise of Obama himself.

When it comes to the role of attack ads in political campaigns, nothing works better than an opposing candidate’s own words.  With the release of “President Obama’s Measure of Progress,” the Romney campaign is effectively doing just that: Using Obama’s claims of what he sought to accomplish in a four-year lease on the White House, all from his 2008 acceptance speech in Denver.

 Then, the hit: with footage of Charlotte that many will recognize, and no narration, words about Charlotte and North Carolina’s unemployment and economic picture are presented. 

In presenting a comparison and contrast ad, campaigns need the credibility of the source to make the ad effective—and what better creditability is there than the opponent’s own words. 

In a nutshell, the Romney campaign is using one of the most effective and informative frames for voters to consider in this year’s election, crafted by “the great communicator” himself, Ronald Reagan.

In the only debate of the 1980 presidential contest between President Jimmy Carter, Reagan finished his remarks with the following classic line: “are you better off now than you were four years ago?” In painting a picture as stark in contrast as that question, Reagan was able to capture the voters’ sentiments at the time.

Romney’s campaign is seeking to make the general campaign and presidential election a retrospective framework for the voters to decide, believing that with unemployment, gas prices, and the economy in the current state it is in, voters will do to Obama what they did to Carter.

But there is another classic line delivered by Reagan that Obama could pull out as a playbook of his own: “there you go again.” 

In watching campaigns, one can always see a “recall” moment, when something happens that reminds us of a past campaign.  It appears that 2012 has started off by pulling out all the greatest hits of 1980. It will be interested to see what other playbook moments from past presidential contests will be torn out and recycled this year. 

There’s plenty of time and material between now and November.


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