Wednesday, 3 September 2014

Mid-Term Elections, Part III: Candidate Image to Candidate Message

        The people who manage campaigns often talk about a candidate's "narrative." Each candidate has a life story. They use the story to create an image. The image is meant to communicate the candidate's message. In the Maine governor's race, the three candidates use their images to explain why they want to be governor. (There is a fourth independent candidate, but he is running for "Governor But Not Really" and that is a different story.)
Rep. Mike Michaud (D)
[photo by S.V. Lowery]
        Author Stephen King's preferred candidate, Democrat Mike Michaud, was a lumber mill worker in northern Maine before he entered politics. His image, despite 34 years in elective office, is that he is a working guy. His first advertisement sends a message is that he understands working people and wants to bring folks together to solve problems. (You can see his first ad at:
Gob. Paul LePage ®
[photo 2011 by MattGagnon
Wikimedia Commons]
         The present governor, Paul LePage, tells how, as a  child, he ran away from an abusive father. He lived on the streets until he found "mentors" (his word). His image is of a self-made man ("a businessman, not a politician"). No one ever gave him anything, he says. He was mayor of a small Maine city before running for governor. His message is that social services prevent people from being independent  and government rules and taxes prevent business from thriving. (You can see his most recent ad at
Eliot Cutler (I)
[photo 2010 by BMRR,
Wikimedia Commons]
         The independent candidate, Eliot Cutler, is a lawyer who tells us that he is the grandchild of immigrants who came to Maine seeking a better life. He emphasizes his work in public service and his business experience, especially on the international stage. His image is of a successful businessman who never really left Maine behind no matter where he lived in the world. His message is that he has the experience to bring jobs to Maine, and because he is an independent, he can offer
new solutions to the state's political and economic problems. (Cutler's promotional ad can be found at:
         Mr. Cutler and Mr. LePage have competed against each other before. Mr. LePage won the 2010 election with only a little over 38% of the vote to become governor. There were five candidates in all, including a Democrat and three independents besides Mr. LePage.  Mr. Cutler won almost as many votes as Mr. LePage, but in a Maine election, "almost" doesn't matter. Maine allows the winning candidate to take office, even if the winner does not have 50% or more of the votes.
        Each campaign may also have a negative message about the other candidates. So far, there have been few "attack ads," but in September and October, political ads will probably include attacks on candidates or their positions.
Variations of these images and messages appear in all of the many campaigns underway this off-year election season. U.S. voters are not awfully interested in mid-term elections. Voter turnout in most states will be low. People often say, "It doesn't matter who wins. Why take the trouble to vote?" Without the excitement of a presidential race, off-year elections generate little interest.

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