Sat. May 28th, 2022

Ponder for a moment the situation and relation of forces in the grand opening today of the election campaign period for the May elections, definitely a test for an effective message and affective unity

At this stage, it does not matter yet whether a candidate has all the resources — money, people and organization necessary to win in the election. It does not matter whether a candidate comes from a province or bailiwick with a large number of voters or that his or her running mate is similarly endowed.

Within 24 hours, the illusion of an equal start and equal chances will be gone.

Soon, every candidate and every campaign will be scrambling for position and advantage in the race.

The opening or launch of an election campaign will be grand or modest depending on how effectively or ambitiously a campaign designs and executes its campaign plan on opening day.

In the grand opening stage of the campaign, as John H. Kessel writes in his authoritative book, Presidential Campaign Politics (Brooks/Cole Publishing Company, Pacific Grove 1992), “the efforts that follow from the plans made during the preceding stage first become visible to the public.”

Grand opening certainly includes the initial major speeches and the major campaign swings of the campaign.

In a sense, the speech of a presidential candidate at his grand opening rally is like an inaugural address of an elected president. It sets out clearly and persuasively why he or she is seeking the presidency, and the principal policy goals that he or she will pursue in office. The current aspirants should not shirk from this, because the opening rally will be covered by the media and it is free media.

According to Kessel, the grand opening of a campaign may stretch farther to include a period of strategic or tactical adjustments, depending on how the campaign initially fares.

Affective unity

For an electoral campaign, it is not enough to think of its audience as simply voters. The audience in a campaign will change or grow as the campaign moves forward. There are various constituencies or groups that will have to be addressed in the course of a campaign and the candidate must be up to the challenge of making a persuasive appeal for their support.

In developing a message, a campaign should always be asking, to whom is this message directed and why.

A message can be effective only if it is grounded in the experiences and circumstances of its intended audience.

A good message will connect with a person’s values. A good message will focus on the values shared between the campaign and its audience.

It starts with having a conversation with members of your audiences. A campaign is engaged in a conversation with its audience, voters, policy makers, citizens or of another group that the campaign seeks to influence.

Finally, there is one piece of advice from an experienced campaign strategist: “Citizens vote their identity and their values, which is not the same thing as voting with their self-interest.”

The grand opening rally is a signal opportunity for the campaign to test the central message of the campaign, whether it can be effective in winning voter support.

Electoral politics, in a sense, begins with the grand opening. It is a moment for a campaign to determine whether its coalition or alliances are coming together in consonance with the coming campaign.

There is an affective unity — an emotional sense of belonging akin to what is felt by a team of athletes — when a political party gathers together during an election campaign.

The common experience in a successful grand opening helps to unify the party or coalition for the coming campaign.

Publicus and DZRH Surveys

I also want to discuss a bit the published results of the two latest surveys of voter preferences for the May 2022 elections by Publicus Asia and the DZRH broadcasting network, and what they portend for the coming balloting.

The underlying message of the electorate in the Publicus and DZRH voter preference surveys for the May 2022 elections is uniform and very nearly incontrovertible when placed alongside earlier surveys by the same outfits.

Voter support for Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. and Sara Duterte-Carpio is overwhelming; it has not changed after several months of survey research by Publicus Asia and DZRH.

On the other hand, the survey message to their rivals for the presidency and vice presidency has been unremittingly grim. BBM-Sara will beat their opponents even if all their survey numbers were combined to support one candidate among them.

If the numbers change because of the withdrawal of some candidates, it will most probably only increase the margins for the BBM-Sara UniTeam.

What survey results mean

The results of the Publicus and DZRH surveys, like the results of informal surveys by other groups, confirm to the mind the problem of messaging by the candidates in the 2022 election.

The message of Bongbong Marcos — coded as national unity and unifying leadership — appears to be resonating with voters. Even though this message has not been fully fleshed out in speech or manifesto, the public seems to be attaching all good things to it.

On the other hand, the other presidential aspirants appear to be still groping for a clear and effective message in their campaign.

They have not grasped the high importance of issues in a national election, especially a campaign for the highest offices of government.

Vocabulary of politics

Issues, it’s been well said, are the vocabulary of politics. Skeptical voters will not accept self-congratulatory descriptions of a candidate’s virtues and attributes. Neither will they permit themselves to be deceived by mere promises on the campaign trail and propaganda.

According to political strategist Dick Morris, “political candidates need to use the vocabulary of issues to tell voters who they are. Those attributes the electorate refuses to infer from image, it will willingly learn from issue positions.

“Ultimately… it is not the issue itself that is crucial; it is what a candidate’s advocacy of a specific cause says about his values and philosophy.

“To work, an issue must be real. It needs to deal with a deep concern for the electorate’s concerns and must constitute a real solution in the minds of the voters.

“Symbolic nonsense such as flag burning or recitation of the pledge of allegiance in schools won’t do the trick anymore.

“The electorate has grown up.”

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