Monday, October 31, 2011

Comedian Running for Mayor of Miami Beach

There was a fun article in this Sunday's NYT about Steve Berke a comedian running in the Miami Beach mayoral race. 

Berke, age 30, is a Yale graduate who decided to run for office. His campaign has attracted serious attention even though he is less than serious himself and it's possible that he could do quite well against his main opponent, incumbent Mayor Matti Herrera Bower, the first Hispanic American female mayor of the city. At age 72, Bower insists this is the last time she'll be running for mayor.

The issue is whether Berke (advised by Republican consultant Roger Stone) will actually prevent Bower from serving that last term. The NYT described Berke as A Jon Stewart era candidate:

Call it a Jon Stewart-generation campaign by a candidate weaned on “The Daily Show” and hoping to use raw humor to reach new, disenfranchised voters through social media. On his campaign fliers, Mr. Berke poses with a fluffy housecat borrowed from a friend “because I don’t have a wife and children.” His campaign’s robo-calls use voice impersonators posing as President Obama, Bill Clinton and, “for the Jewish vote,” Adam Sandler. He has cameras recording his every step (and misstep) so he can pitch the whole thing as a reality show. He highlights his politically lethal gaffes because another part of his platform is unwavering transparency.

The reality is that Miami Beach is just the right kind of city for a non-traditional candidate like a comedian. Stay tuned for Election Day to see whether the citizens of Miami Beach -- known for it's Art Deco hotels, flamboyant lifestyle, and beaches, will pick the comedian Berke or stick with Bower for the win.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Jon Hunstman and Stephen Colbert in 2012!

Jon Huntsman, Republican GOP candidate and former US Ambassador to China appeared on The Colbert Report earlier this week.

During the course of the interview, Colbert called Huntsman a moderate. And if you examine his political positions, the truth is that Huntsman looks more like Obama than any of the other GOP candidates. With only 2% of Republican support according to recent polls, there's little chance that Huntsman will remain a presidential candidate for much longer. That said, a Huntsman candidacy really would make for an interesting and competitive general election cycle.

Towards the end of the interview, Colbert asks Huntsman if he is ready for "The Colbert Bump." A real phenomenon, research has actually shown that appearing on Colbert's show can help congressional candidates with fundraising efforts. Of course, there's no real evidence that "The Colbert Bump," helps increase poll ratings. And it's doubtful that an appearance on The Colbert Report will do much for Huntsman, especially among Republican primary voters.

That said, Huntsman's appearance underscores yet again the strategic value of candidate appearances on political comedy programming. I discuss the phenomenon in a forthcoming research article in the journal Mass Communication & Society.

As we get closer to the Iowa caucuses, look for candidates from Huntsman to Romney to Perry to Cain to try and take advantage of appearances on non-traditional infotainment programming. The Colbert Report and other programs offer an excellent way to connect with a different group of voters who tend to be less politically attentive on average.

It's your turn to be the judge -- what do you think of Huntsman's appearance? Bonus or bust?

Frank Luntz and Stephen Colbert on Corporations are People

Frank Luntz, the Republican strategist who is responsible for the reframing of terms like the estate tax (death tax) and oil drilling (energy exploration) spent some more time with Stephen Colbert this week.

The segment begins with some very entertaining conversation between Colbert and Luntz and the explanation of some key research techniques like focus groups and dial technology. In the end, Colbert persuades Luntz to turn up the dial:

The second segment on the broadcast actually features a focus group with average Americans. The bottom line -- Americans don't necessarily see corporations as people from the outset. After some time with Luntz however, some interesting slogans result, reframing the idea that corporations are in fact people. "Corporations Are Humans" sounds pretty convincing after all. What about "People Are Corporations?" Does order in fact matter here? Watch the video and decide for yourself:

I for one am very intrigued to see if an actual commercials results from all of this research.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

The Daily Show, Republicans, and the War on Science

Aasif Mandvi, Daily Show correspondent offers a funny piece on the Republican war on science.

The science fair kids in the video certainly seem a lot smarter than the GOP nominees featured in the beginning of the video or Noelle Nikpour, the Republican strategist.

I'm putting my money on the kids and science.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Reading the Newspaper is Sexy. Really?

This week marks the launch of a new advertising campaign by the American Newspaper Association. The message: Reading a newspaper is Sexy.


According to an article in today's New York Times:

“Smart is the new sexy” reads the tagline for the campaign, which was created by the Martin Agency, part of the Interpublic Group of Companies.
“Be able to find Iran on a map,” says one ad that shows an illustration of a woman reading a print newspaper at a table. “Know what the city council is up to behind closed doors,” it continues."
While I do think that understanding geography and being able to point out Iran and Egypt, Afghanistan, and Israel on a map is sexy, I'm not sure that there's a large enough target audience out there who agrees, especially with respect to newspapers. 
Even if the new ANA ad campaign is aimed at encouraging both print and digital readership, I'm not sure the message will resonate. Perhaps I'm just too cynical? At this point, I'm willing to settle and say that finding Maryland, New York, and California on a map borders on sexy these days as does just a hint of newsprint ink on Sunday morning fingertips.

True nobody wants to be this person:

“Who wants to go to a cocktail party and not know what’s going on in the world?” Mr. Hughes said. “You’ll be sexier if you’re current with what’s going on in the world.”

But are newspapers the best medium through which we can encourage news consumption as sexy?

Comedy in these Troubled Economic Times

The New York Times presents an interesting analysis of the success of television comedies this fall. According to the article:

"So far this season, sitcoms occupy seven of the top 10 spots among entertainment programs (not counting football) in the category of most financial importance to network executives — viewers ages 18 to 49"

The report suggests that comedy has seen a resurgence in part given the sad state of the American economy and the reality that sitcoms are finally outshining reality and drama television. Both new shows like Fox's The New Girl and staples like ABC's Modern Family are leading the ratings game.

Looks like it's not just a good time for political comedy but for the sitcom as well.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Occupy Wall Street protests help to shape media and political agenda.

The Occupy Wall Street movement has been receiving more media attention as of late. For some, this focus is long overdue while for others these protestors occupying Zuccotti Park in New York City and similar locales across the country are receiving too much attention. Regardless of your view, it's clear that the Occupy Wall Street movement is starting to have a real influence on the media agenda and raises issues that will need to be carefully addressed by both political parties as we head closer to the general election season.

In today's New York Times alone, there were three articles about the protestors in the main news section. First, there was a comparison between those currently protesting and the Tea Party members who were out in force during the last election cycle.

Further back in the news section, there was an article about tent libraries set-up for protestors in Boston and other cities. If you aren't fully convinced that the protesting groups represent two very different political perspectives, take a look at the reading selection in Boston. Think Tea Party members are big fans of Howard Zinn and Noam Chomsky? Doubtful.

Lastly, there's an article about protestors celebrating Jewish holidays in Zuccotti Park and how the construction of a sukkah (the Jewish holiday of Sukkot just passed) suggests that all these claims about protestors' expressions of anti-Semitism might be a bit off the mark.

In previous weeks, The New York Times told you all about the diet of the protestors in the Wednesday Dining Section and we learned that protestors were abusing bathroom privileges at local Wall Street area establishments.

All in all, a range of coverage for the protestors in the last few weeks. Some stories have been more serious and on-message while others appeal to the human interest.

It is unclear what these protests will achieve in the end besides making some more headaches for the Bloomberg administration. For right now though, they've captured the media's attention and are a prime example of agenda-setting. Look for increased media coverage of the protests to influence the talking points of both Republicans and Democrats.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Are we already down to a Perry vs. Romney showdown?

It seems that the media has already decided the race for the 2012 GOP Nomination has evolved into a head-to-head contest between former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney and Texas Governor Rick Perry. Yep, it's a battle to the finish for Romney and Pery despite Herman Cain's recent surge in popularity among voters in Florida and the reality that primary voters won't even start to head to the polls until January 2012.

According to a recent article in the NY Times, the Perry vs. Romney showdown has been a long time in the making or has at least been a factor since the 2008 election.

Both candidates did a good job of attacking each other in Tuesday's latest GOP Candidates debate -- the eighth of the season. To catch up on the debate highlights, check out this clip from the Wednesday broadcast of The Daily Show.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Christie, Fat Jokes, and the 2012 GOP Nomination

As a native of New Jersey, I have to admit I'm not a big fan of Chris Christie. Still I was intrigued by his potential late entry into the Presidential race as a contender for the 2012 GOP Nomination.

Alas, Christie will not be running for President in 2012, choosing instead to continue to focus on unfinished business in New Jersey.

This announcement left many Republicans in the tri-state area disappointed and also meant that late-night comedians would have to abandon their "Christie fat jokes" in favor of new material.

Christie, who is both aware of and sensitive about his weight problem, took the jokes in stride. In a press conference (the highlights of which are featured in this clip from Tuesday's episode of The Daily Show), Christie suggested that he cares more about the comedy actually being funny than the repeated references to his larger-than-average physique.

An active discussion of Christie's weight problem did surface on the blogsphere last week alongside speculation of a potential Christie candidacy. For some, Christie's weight raised important concerns about his health and his potential ability to govern. For others like Frank Bruni of The New York Times all of the discussion of Christie's weight in connection with his qualifications for President was a bit overblown:

"Downgrade Christie for his truculent style. Reject him for his limited experience. But don’t dwell on his heft, at least not to the extent that many Americans have been whispering — and some are now outright saying — you should. Girth doesn’t equal character. And mettle has better measurements than the number of scoops in your post-dinner sundae or miles in your pre-breakfast run."

Weight issues aside, Christie would be a stronger candidate in 2016 after he's had more time and experience as a politician in his newish role as Governor of New Jersey. At the same time, he'd also be better able to manage the rigors of a national campaign if he was able to trim down over the next few years. After all a national campaign is grueling for even the most fit of presidential candidates.

In the meantime, NJ can keep Christie and late-night comedians can move beyond the fat jokes. There's plenty to make fun of when it comes to Perry and Romney after all.