Monday, 28 March 2011

Political narrativewatch: Tom Pawlenty's campaign video

The Republican Party is having a tough time finding a presidential contender who has a chance of beating Barack Obama in 2012. But they should remember that President George H.W. Bush was “unbeatable” this far out from the 1992 general election.

One of the Republicans who looks set to run is the former Minnesota governor, Tom Pawlenty. He has an outside chance of becoming the nominee. I doubt that I’d ever vote for Mr Pawlenty, or any of the other Republicans. He may sink without trace. But this early campaign video shows that he gets what political marketing and political storytelling are all about.

Brian Jenner has written a rave review of the video and its astute use of the best speechwriting techniques.

To his comments I’d add that the video is an almost-brilliant piece of political storytelling.

Right from the start, Pawlenty’s video tells a story about America.

“The United States of America is the most successful nation the world has ever known…”

The moral of the story is that America has triumphed in the past through will and determination, in World War II, at Valley Forge, by going to the moon and settling the West. With the same sort of spirit, and more toil, by “rolling up our sleeves”, America can overcome its present problems.

Pawlenty’s video works because it speaks to the stories that his audience – Republican-leaning Americans – tell about themselves. He offers a springboard story based on their sense of identity.

"We are the American people. We have seen difficulties before and we always overcome."

Pawlenty understands that politics is about emotion first and foremost.

His next storytelling challenge is to explain how Tom Pawlenty fits into the story, how he embodies the narrative, how he can help his country overcome. Just like Franklin D. Roosevelt, Ronald Reagan – and Barack Obama.

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