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Video: Mark McKinnon offers insider’s perspective on national political campaigns

Oct. 8, 2010, 12:53 PM

An award-winning national media producer and communications strategist whose clients have included President George W. Bush and Sen. John McCain discussed key elements of successful campaigns with students in a political science class taught by John Geer and Roy Neel.

Mark McKinnon, vice chairman of the Austin-based Public Strategies Inc., was a guest lecturer Oct. 5 for the “Political Campaigns and the Electoral Process” class. During the talk in Stevenson Center, he played clips from some of the most memorable campaign ads and candidate interviews to illustrate his points.

McKinnon said that a candidate must start with an answer to the most fundamental of questions – why is he or she running for office? For example, the late Sen. Edward Kennedy stumbled on “60 Minutes” when asked this question and it was widely perceived as the downfall of his late 1970s presidential campaign.

Winning campaigns tend to have concise as well as clear and consistent messages. In addition, there needs to be an emotional component that connects to voters and relevancy to people’s concerns. McKinnon cited the 1964 “Daisy” ad by President Lyndon Johnson’s campaign as successful for raising voter concerns about opponent Barry Goldwater’s preparedness for the presidency and the threat of nuclear war. At the time, Johnson was far ahead in the polls and his campaign was worried about voter apathy.

McKinnon said that there is a high level of voter dissatisfaction and a loss of trust in government this year that reminds him somewhat of the 1992 political environment. “People feel like money has corrupted the process, with outside groups spending three, four and five times as much as some of the candidates,” he said. That is one reason he would not be surprised if serious third-party candidates jump into the 2012 presidential race.

Contact: Ann Marie Deer Owens, 615-322-NEWS
annmarie.owens@vanderbilt.edu

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