Friday, January 30, 2004

Clark's Ads Need to Close the Deal!

As I talked to undecided voters in New Hampshire it quickly became clear that their indecision was not because they viewed themselves as choosing between the lesser of a few evils. Rather, they tended to like 3 or 4 of the candidates, generally including Wesley Clark. They were looking to beat Bush, and therefore considering electability-- an argument Clark's feel-good ads didn't really make. In the waning days of the campaign Clark simply didn't close the deal. Edwards did. Kerry did. Clark didn't, even though electability was the rational for many of us supporting his campaign.

Now the campaign is at a crossroads. A surprise showing on February 3rd could set this nomination process on its head. But a surprise in a "likeable" field requires bolder action than Clark's cautious stategists have shown so far. He needs to make the case for his electability over the other candidates. And he needs to do it 30 seconds. And repeat it over and over until it sinks in to the electorate. His current speech at least partially makes the case:

Let me finish up by saying this: I respect my opponents in this race. But I think that there is one issue above all others in this primary. And that is: Who is best equipped to beat George Bush. In a closely divided country, I think we need someone from the heartland to win. In a country at war, I think we need someone with the experience and understanding to lead. Someone who's been on the frontlines of battle and international diplomacy. In the face of a ruthlessly political President, I think we need someone who knows what he stands for -- who has put his career on the line for what he believes -- to stand up for Americans.

He needs an ad NOW that drives it home. It could go something like this:

Narrator: "Wes Clark is not a lawyer or a smooth-talking politician. Wes Clark is a man of action who gets things done. A man of humble roots who grew up in Arkansas, went to college by earning an appointment to West Point and served his country for 34 years. Three bullets in Viet Nam couldn't stop him. A ruthless dictator in the Balkans could not deter his resolve. He ended genocide and brought peace without the loss of single American soldier. And he did it by working with our allies, not against them. He is also a successful businessman who is dedicated to working tirelessly every day to help make average Americans' lives better. Better jobs, better health care, better education and a better environment. Wes Clark is the man who can beat George Bush in November in every region of the country and is not beholden to special interests."

Clark: "I'm Wes Clark and I approve this message, because our country's future is at stake. I recently became a Grandfather and I'm committed to making sure that America continues to provide the best opportunities for all of our children. I'm asking for your vote so that together we can beat George Bush in November and keep the American Dream strong for everyone."

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