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December 04, 2012

Dumb Statement From Romney Advisor Stuart Stevens

On how the election might have gone differently.

Over the summer, however, once Romney had clinched the GOP nomination, he did not counter months of attack ads by the Obama campaign and an allied super PAC. Romney's aides said that was part tactical and part due to a cash shortage as the primary season drew to a close. “We spent all the money that we had,” Stevens said, and even borrowed some to stay on the air until the convention.

Given limited options, Stevens said, the campaign went with a series of “day one, job one” ads about the first day of a Romney administration, rather than countering the Obama offensive. “We tested this extensively,” Stevens said. “What voters wanted to know most is what Mitt Romney would do as president.” One consequence: The largely unaddressed attacks on Romney as a heartless capitalist magnified the impact of the leaked video that showed Romney at a private fundraiser describing 47 percent of the country as irresponsible moochers. We’ll never know what course the race might have taken had Romney mounted a defense as relentless as the onslaught.

Steve Jobs famously didn't believe in focus grouping potential buyers and asking them what they wanted. His cutting, but wise, quote is something like: "It's not the public's idea to know what they want."

And that's true. The general possible buyer does not know the industry like those in the industry do. If you asked people what they wanted from their phones ten years ago, they probably wouldn't have said, "I want it to include a fairly powerful digital camera in it, and I want to tote all of my digital music collection on it. And, I'd like to use it as a portable tv screen, watching High Def movies which I purchase online."

No one would have thought of that. Few would have imagined that stuff was doable, and even if they had realized it was doable, they would have asked, "Why do I want all these completely unrelated tech gadgets in my phone?" (Actually, I still ask that, but I'm in the minority.)

And of course now if you offered a "smart phone" missing a single one of these unrelated bits of gadgetry the public would say, "But then that's not a smart phone!!!"

The idea of asking voters what they want and just taking their word for it is so naive I'm having trouble believing someone in politics said this.

Yes, the public will always say they want policy details and more policy details. Their statements to this effect are complete and utter lies. I can guarantee you that the Detailed Policy Bits parts of any political website are its least trafficked.

So these guys went in to a bunch of uninformed non-experts, and asked them "Do you think we should push back against the negative personal attacks which even now are having a powerful subconscious effect on how you view Romney, or do you want Romney to talk about his plans for the future?"

And surprise surprise, they said "Plans for the future." You know, the answer that makes them sound like highly intelligent scholars of civic policy, rather than the answer that makes them sound like dupes easily-swayed by repetitive and dishonest political attacks.

Of course they chose the former. Of course they chose the answer that offered them a more heroic self-conception of themselves. Of course they claimed to be the sort of people entirely unaffected by advertising. (If they were, why ask them what sorts of messaging they'd like to see in political ads?)

It's not the public's job to know what they want. This is ridiculous. I'm beginning to buy into this notion of Romney The Robot.

Human beings. They lie, especially to themselves. Have you met them?


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posted by Ace at 07:51 PM

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