Romney and the re-invention of our politics

The Times has a fascinating look at how the Romney campaign is modernizing the way advocacy and political campaigns use television, the most important medium in politics today. 

The piece reinforces a basic point we've been making here at NDN and through our affiliate, the New Politics Institute - that given the increasing velocity of change of the media and technology landscape, those looking to succeed in this new battleground of 21st century politics will need to adopt a culture of learning and experimentation.  Doing politics the way one did 4-6-8 years ago is no longer an option, as this "new politics" is literally being invented in front of our eyes.

Consider that in 1985 90% of anyone watching a TV was watching live broadcast television.  In this election cycle, with the rise of cable, satellite and DVRs, only about a third of anyone watching a TV will be watching live broadcast TV.   What a transformation of the most important medium of politics! One would expect a great deal of experimentation in our politics around this tremendous change.  Romney is now leading the way. 

It is only June and Romney has already bought national cable, done Spanish-language ads and executed a variety of more targeted buys - in addition to the traditional broadcast buys in the early states.  There has never been anything like this before in a Presidential, and largely through this strategy Romney now leads in both Iowa and New Hampshire.  Will this lead hold? Not clear, but John Weaver's tortured effort to explain away the significance of what has happened here should make it clear the McCain folks are worried. 

The most interesting part of the piece (including some quotes from me):

It is also unclear just how effective television advertisements continue to be in today’s rapidly changing media environment, with audiences segmented over a kaleidoscopic array of cable channels and with the competing din of the Internet and other information sources.

“There is no model anymore,” said Simon Rosenberg, president of the New Democrat Network, which instructs liberal activists on how to take advantage of media advances. “Everything is made up as we go, because audiences are leaving the old platforms. We are hurtling into a post-broadcast media age.”

Members of Mr. Romney’s media team say they are able to reach those who are already watching the presidential contenders closely by sophisticated microtargeting techniques, pioneered by the Bush campaign in 2004, that crunch through mountains of market research data.

“That’s why early media makes more sense now than it would have even made even four years ago, because we can find our targets in a fragmented media market,” said Will Feltus, another member of Mr. Romney’s media team.

The data helps the campaign’s media buyers, he said, isolate specific programs and schedule their advertisements for times of the day when Republican primary-goers are more likely to be watching. The television show “24,” for example, has been a favorite of the campaign’s.

In another unusual move, Mr. Romney has also been running advertisements on national cable networks, focusing mostly on Fox News, a favorite among conservatives. The goal is to establish him among national party activists, fund-raisers and leaders, as well as among early primary voters.

Lots to think about here.....