October 26th, 2012
10:00 PM ET

The optics of politics: Seeing campaigns through a multicultural kaleidoscope

This is the first in an occasional series on issues of race, identity and politics ahead of Election Day, including a look at a white Southern Democrat fighting for survival, a civil rights icon registering voters and how parallels to the past haunt the age of Obama.

By Todd Leopold, CNN

(CNN) – The images – on TV, YouTube, our social networks – have become so familiar that we take them for granted.

We're treated to scenes of Barack Obama with a group of middle Americans at a cozy restaurant table, then with an African-American woman in an office. Or we see clips from a rally, the president surrounded by faces of all ages and hues.

It's much the same with Mitt Romney: A quartet of white male engineers pore over plans, then an African-American woman talks with a colleague. We see shots of factory workers, then a burst of flags as the candidate heads for the stage. Or we get farms, children and a colorful audience at a speech.

More than 60 years into the Television Age, campaign messages have become a formula: Uplifting ads are full of inspirational music, flapping flags and stolid candidate portrayals; negative ones feature ominous melodies, dramatic black-and-white images and gloomy narrators.

Either way, they’re often shot documentary-style, with shaky cameras and changing focus, so that live rallies look like commercials and commercials look like rallies. Whether live rallies or tightly scripted spots, almost all of it ends up on TV or the Internet, turning the campaign into one giant advertisement.

And in almost every instance, the people look like America – or at least the idealized, multicultural mosaic we imagine the country to be, even including types once considered “edgy.” One Obama ad shows a lightly tattooed woman; one Romney ad, perhaps the candidate’s most pointed, includes a mother with a nose stud. Suffice it to say, these are not the sorts of images that would have passed muster even half a generation ago.

In the 24/7 world of presidential campaigning, all are welcome, all are included.

In some respects, perhaps this is a good thing. It’s the “post-racial America” many hoped for with Obama's election, in which (to borrow some famous words) people would be judged by the content of their character, not the color of their skin.

We simply assume, says San Francisco State University political scientist Robert Smith, that “the norm – and this is a good norm – is an ethnically and racially diverse and egalitarian society,” and the campaigns must reflect that.

But on another level, these images – the optics - can be seen as a sign of timidity, as both major campaigns use diversity as wallpaper without actually engaging in the issues raised by a multicultural society.

“That sort of bigger vision, and a more adventurous sensibility, is something that’s entirely lacking from this campaign. This is a small - bordering on minuscule - campaign,” says John Carroll, a professor of mass communication at Boston University. Both candidates, he says, “are as risk-averse as possible.”

And really, who can blame them? The electorate, we’re constantly reminded, is evenly (and viciously) divided. Obama, already mistrusted by a portion of that electorate, doesn’t want to poke at any beehives; Romney, trying to make a case he can help the sluggish economy, paints himself as a cool, technocratic fix-it man.

A jacket-less Mitt Romney addresses an audience. Every detail of a candidate's appearance matters, say some political scientists.

Neither candidate has ventured much into the wider America; the vast majority of their campaign stops since July 1 have been in battleground states, especially Ohio, Virginia, Colorado and Florida – and even then, the candidates have generally stuck to inoffensive backdrops such as schools, farms, hotel ballrooms and the most generic of all, the airport tarmac. (Check out CNN's Campaign Tracker)

The days of spending time in the urban blight of the South Bronx (as Ronald Reagan did in a response to a Jimmy Carter appearance) or with South Central L.A. residents after the 1992 riots (Bill Clinton) seem long past. Sure, one of Romney’s ads does feature him in gutted-out Detroit – but he’s seen driving by rotting houses from the remove of his driver’s seat.

Besides, certain optics can only get you in trouble, as both Obama and Romney know. Who can forget Michael Dukakis, trying to demonstrate his defense bona fides, peeking out of a tank like a curious gopher? Or windsurfing John Kerry, whose Vietnam War heroism was turned against him by the Swift Boaters?

Indeed, both candidates have already seen it happen. The Obama campaign made hay with Romney’s “47 percent” video, in which the former Bain Capital chief was recorded in front of wealthy fundraisers referring to Obama supporters as people who “believe that they are the victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them.” The president was slapped back after his lackluster, grimacing first debate, leading to a New Yorker cover that pictured him as an empty chair at a lectern.

The latter was a callback to a previously much-mocked event, Clint Eastwood’s GOP convention speech, which was described by left-wing writer Jamelle Bouie as “an old white man arguing with an imaginary Barack Obama” – by implication, symbolic of the GOP itself.

Which is what can happen when race and demographics are brought in the equation: the optics can become too symbolic. Better to keep the colors as hazy backdrops, the campaigns seem to suggest, rather than put diversity front and center - where it can become a flashpoint for divisiveness.

Looking at the details

Seeing how they work is the province of political scientists – and some of them pay attention to the most trivial details.

To Costas Panagopolous, everything matters in an election campaign: the flag pins, the clothes, the camera angles, the audience. Everything makes an impression.

Panagopolous, a political scientist at Fordham University, watches how the candidates present themselves visually, whether on the stump or in advertisements. All this stagecraft makes a difference, he says.

“Studies reveal that the visual contextual elements can be very effective in engaging voters,” says Panagopolous, who directs the university's Center for Electoral Politics and Democracy. Even peripheral details can make a difference, if only subconsciously.

In a recent study, Panagopolous sent postcards to Key West, Florida, urging citizens to vote. One set of postcards featured a palm tree, another an American flag, the third a cropped picture of eyes. The only postcard that stimulated voting was the one with the eyes, which Panagopolous attributes to the feeling of being watched.

It’s yet another indication there’s something within our psychology that’s programmed to respond to certain messages, he says.

“An individual’s reactions to those elements are often happening at the subconscious level," he says, "hard-wired by our biological and genetic predispositions and evolutionary predispositions.”

In the 21st century, with so many means of communication available, optics are stressed more than ever.

Some are old: Yard signs are still effective because they appeal to community, says Panagopolous. Some are new: Internet ads and social media can identify voter tendencies through search algorithms. Some combine today and yesterday, such as flyers that can be precisely targeted through direct mail.

Barack Obama - also jacket-less - waves to a crowd on the campaign trail. The faces in the audience can suggest as much as the candidate.

Do they really change minds? Experts still argue the question.

“I’m not quite convinced the American people are troubled by a politician not wearing a flag lapel pin," says Robert Eisinger, a political scientist and dean at the Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD). "Consultants and advisers believe it’s important, but I’m more skeptical.”

On the other hand, you never know what makes a difference: He refers to one study that indicated a split-second look at two candidates’ faces was enough for observers to discern the winner.

“We’re still trying to figure out why,” Eisinger says. “The political psychologists are exploring what is it about image that appears to matter?”

The faces of America

Politicians don’t necessarily care about the “why.” They just know optics work.

To that end, campaigns spend a lot of time showing the many faces of America. Thanks to modern media, the campaigning works on local, regional and national levels.

Matt Mackowiak, a Republican consultant and former advance man for the 2004 Bush-Cheney campaign, saw that firsthand. By the time the campaign came to town, Mackowiak and his colleagues had already worked with local leaders to underline the campaign’s point (rounding up doctors for a speech on health care, for example), had people vetted so that they didn’t step on the message – and made sure to showcase a demographic smorgasbord. The appearances would inevitably make the national news; some of them would be re-purposed for TV commercials.

“Generally having a backdrop of other people provides a depth and a color to an event that makes it look more alive,” he says.

There are drawbacks. At a live event there’s a risk of showing drowsy faces or a fatigued candidate. That means there’s little time for nuance, says Middle Tennessee State political science professor Kent Syler.

“As issues have become more complicated, attention spans of voters are shorter because there is so much information out there,” says Syler, a former campaign manager and congressional chief of staff. “It has made symbolism and appearance even more important. Voters will fall back on whether or not they feel good about the person.”

Campaigns weren’t always so detailed – and they didn’t need to be. In the 19th century, politics was entertainment, notes Brian Balogh, a historian at the University of Virginia. It was a big deal when a presidential campaign came to town – a day full of speeches and picnics and rallies around bonfires. The candidate himself need not attend; in fact, until about 1896, anybody who wanted to see them in person generally had to travel to the candidate’s home. (Campaigns obliged by offering railroad specials for supporters.) The traveling rallies were full of surrogates.

In the 19th century, it was unusual for presidential candidates to travel. William McKinley conducted much of his 1896 campaign from his house.

Moreover, elections weren’t all about the presidency, he adds. “They were much more about mobilizing the troops” for the many other slots on the ticket.

The rise of new technologies changed all that. Warren G. Harding benefited from movie newsreels, appearing with the stars of the day while giving speeches from his Ohio house. Franklin D. Roosevelt was a shrewd user of radio.

But television had the biggest impact.

TV emphasized the visual. TV rewarded cool. TV brought local scenes into living rooms all over the country, making the optics even more important.

Candidates adapted quickly. Dwight Eisenhower hired the pioneering adman Rosser Reeves for his 1952 campaign. John F. Kennedy wrote an article about the future of politics on TV for TV Guide magazine in 1959. The next year, when he ran for president, Kennedy’s commercials stressed his youth and vigor, and his debate performance against a pallid Richard Nixon impressed viewers.

“This is a guy - and his campaign - who (was) aware of how television is shaping how people are processing politics,” SCAD’s Eisinger says.

Ronald Reagan took stage management to new levels when he was president. The former actor was well aware of the value of good lighting, colorful vistas and carefully controlled presentation, and for his 1984 campaign, his team – including aide Michael Deaver – pulled out all the stops.

“Mike was a master of choreography of events,” says Harvard professor and CNN contributor David Gergen, who served in Reagan’s first term. It was Deaver who was responsible for backlighting the Oval Office for Reagan’s prime-time presidential addresses, Deaver who made sure the president was photographed from high angles so his neck wattles didn’t show. Reagan, still the oldest man to have held the office, was also presented with a youthful vigor. He even re-created a Harry Truman-style whistle-stop tour, waving regally in front of thousands who gathered to watch his train go through – scenes that made it into an advertisement.

Eight years later, Bill Clinton took the concept of surrounding himself with an audience of average Americans - rather than the backdrop of a formal dais – and made it central to his campaign, says Darrell West, a political scientist based at the Brookings Institution. It’s now de rigueur for presidential candidates.

“When the television cameras were reporting what he said, it would be against a backdrop of a multicultural audience,” he says. “A lot of candidates (now) like to have the audience seated behind them, because it conveys leadership and having followers at the same time.”

Running the 'demographics race'

Targeting cultural groups isn’t a new development, of course – those 19th-century candidates played to the ethnic clubhouses of their era. But in the TV age, demographic imagery is often used to emphasize a party’s positive outreach and make the candidate look good. Eisenhower’s ads included one that featured an African-American, unusual for the 1950s. One Kennedy commercial featured Harry Belafonte, known for his civil rights work;  Jackie Kennedy even did an ad in Spanish.

Reagan probably did the most thorough job with his 1984 “Morning in America” commercial, which was as representative as a war movie platoon – and just as cornily effective. “It’s morning again, in America,” a grandfatherly voice announced, followed by gauzy, heartwarming scenes of American life: urban and rural, station wagons and picket fences, old folks and newlyweds, children of various ethnicities, capped off by a flag-raising. Almost 30 years later, the images remain as optimistically “American” as sipping lemonade on a porch swing.

Ronald Reagan's effective "Morning in America" ad featured images of Americans of many cultures and age groups.

Reagan’s commercial was a deliberate throwback that reflected the campaign’s message of a reborn America after years of splintering. (Clinton’s 1996 campaign, which promised to “build a bridge to the 21st century,” turned on the same optimism.) But in today’s roiled country, the 2012 candidates have to tread more gently on the demographics, say observers.

To San Francisco State’s Smith, Obama’s campaign seems “concerned that not too many African-Americans appear when he gives speeches,” in an effort to highlight the Democratic Party’s diversity among other ethnic groups. Romney’s campaign, on the other hand, “has the same problem that Republican nominees have had since Nixon,” Smith says. “The Republican Party is largely white, but it knows the norms in this country really don’t accept that. So they have to go out of their way to appear egalitarian racially and ethnically.”

It doesn’t take a political scientist to observe that the GOP is trying to come to grips with a demographics gap. During the Republican convention, the party made sure to highlight a diverse group of speakers, including the Hispanic Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida, Indian-American Gov. Nikki Haley of South Carolina and Utah congressional candidate Mia Love, who is black, Mormon and of Haitian heritage. But the rank-and-file, which was also greatly on display, remains largely white: According to a 2011 Gallup survey, party identifiers are “significantly more likely than the overall population to be non-Hispanic whites.”

As Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-South Carolina) put it during the convention, “The demographics race we’re losing badly. We’re not generating enough angry white guys to stay in business for the long term.”

Wedges and subtexts

Indeed, optics can just as easily be used as a wedge.

A 1972 Nixon ad, for example, showed a hard-hatted construction worker eating lunch while a narrator described a bill from his Democratic challenger, Sen. George McGovern, that would expand welfare. The subtext was hard to miss: blue-collar workers versus those mooching minorities.

Sixteen years later, George H.W. Bush visited a New Jersey flag factory and turned patriotism into a campaign issue after noting his opponent, Massachusetts Gov. Michael Dukakis, had vetoed a Pledge of Allegiance requirement.

Presidential campaigns generally avoid making an overt issue of race, but as The Root observes, that’s not always the case down-ballot.

North Carolina Sen. Jesse Helms made a brutal ad against his competitor, African-American mayor Harvey Gantt, showing a white man crumpling a rejection letter while a narrator intoned about “racial quotas.” More recently, an ad by Louisiana Sen. David Vitter said opponent Charlie Melancon was practically “putting out a welcome sign for illegal aliens.” Both senators won their races.

But presidential contests haven’t gone unscathed. Most infamously there was the Willie Horton ad, used by Bush’s 1988 campaign against Dukakis as a way of characterizing him as soft on crime. The ad told the story of Horton, an African-American inmate who had kidnapped and brutalized a couple while out on a weekend pass. The bearded Horton was every white suburbanite’s nightmare of the angry black man.

This year there are any number of wedge issues - including Medicare, immigration and welfare - and the demographic battlegrounds are equally numerous.

Meanwhile, optical precision keeps getting sharper.

For example, both parties have generally treated Hispanic voters as a monolithic entity, says Jill Hanauer, president of the left-leaning consultant Project New America. However, her firm’s research indicates that adding specific cultural symbols to appeal to slivers of the Hispanic audience can make the message more effective.

“Authenticity is important and it’s meaningful,” she says. “In the old days, both parties would do a bilingual piece of mail and maybe do one late-in-the-campaign radio spot in Spanish and call it a day. Campaigns now do deep research to understand who their target audiences are among Hispanics, what their audiences care about, and communicate appropriately.”

'It's a television show'

All this focus on looking good on TV gets back to a primary criticism of optics: that they are all about style over substance. It’s not a new jibe.

In his 1969 book, “The Selling of the President 1968,” Joe McGinniss had fly-on-the-wall access for Nixon’s victorious run. Nixon had learned his lesson from 1960: in ‘68, he put together a team of advisers to mold his television image, including “Laugh-In” head writer Paul Keyes, former CBS executive Frank Shakespeare, ad man Harry Treleaven and a producer named Roger Ailes, who had been working for former big-band singer Mike Douglas' daytime  talk-variety show. (Ailes is now head of Fox News.) Together, Nixon’s team played to the candidate’s strengths and minimized his weaknesses (“Avoid closeups,” wrote Treleaven in one memo).

Today, the book’s details may seem old hat – but still make for revealing reading.

For example, during the campaign, the advisers filled a panel of questioners with a then-contemporary version of diversity: one African-American (“Two would be offensive to whites,” McGinniss wrote. “Two would be trying too hard”), a Jewish attorney, the president of a Polish-Hungarian group, a suburban housewife, a businessman and a representative of the white lower-middle class. The audience, recruited by the party for the hourlong advertisement, was similarly balanced. Except for two panelists on hand for “authenticity,” reporters were not allowed in the studio.

It was a shrewd way of presenting the candidate and a vision of America – and bypassing the journalists. Asked why a pool of reporters wasn’t allowed to observe, Shakespeare said they would just interfere with the message. Ailes agreed.

“It’s a television show,” he told Treleaven. “Our television show.”

“On television it matters less that (the candidate) does not have ideas,” wrote McGinniss. “He need not be statesman nor crusader; he must only show up on time. … The TV candidate, then, is measured not against his predecessors – not against a standard of performance established by two centuries of democracy – but against Mike Douglas. How well does he handle himself? Does he mumble, does he twitch, does he make me laugh? Do I feel warm inside?”

In modern parlance, that translates as, “Would I have a beer with this guy?”

That shallowness still troubles some observers – even admen.

“We’re suffering from genericide,” says Joey Reiman, who’s worked with such companies as Delta Airlines, McDonald’s and Procter & Gamble.

Not that Reiman is surprised: The higher the office, he points out, the more basic the appeal tends to be, so “as you’re moving up to the presidency, the lowest common denominator are generic people.” In that respect, perhaps it makes sense for campaigns to retreat behind blurry colors.

The first Nixon-Kennedy debate reflected well on the cool, unflappable Kennedy.

Still, there are signs that – maybe – our lizard-brained psychology and ethnic tribalism are giving way to a willingness by individuals to go in new directions. If demographics are destiny, they’re also remarkably flexible when it comes to party identification. In a recent New York Times essay, historical novelist Kevin Baker observed that cities such as Chicago, Philadelphia and Detroit were once Republican bastions. It wasn’t until recent decades - marked by white flight and gentrification - that urban areas have become reliably Democratic. Conversely, the once solidly Democratic South is now the most dependable Republican voting bloc – though that could change thanks to rising numbers of Hispanics.

Both parties may need to get beyond their optics and actually address the issues.

“You saw it with the last census – so many people view themselves as biracial, or they don’t identify through a racial lens,” says consultant Hanauer. She points to her 15-year-old son. “(He) doesn’t look at people from an ethnicity perspective, or a sexual-orientation one. He just looks at the character of the person. (That’s) really what we’re going to see politics of the future look like.”

A cynic might say, "Yeah, right." After all, isn’t the whole point of optics that we’re captive to our shallowest impulses?

But Reiman, the adman, certainly hopes change is afoot. Candidates do best and inspire most when they tap into a larger purpose, he believes, and thus far what we’ve seen in 2012 is shallow and small-bore.

“We’re here for a greater meaning,” he says. “Meaning in business makes money, and in politics it wins elections. What’s happened in the political campaigns is we’re avoiding doing great good because we want to avoid looking bad.”

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Filed under: 2012 Election • Age • Ethnicity • Gender • History • How we look • Politics • Race • Who we are
soundoff (106 Responses)
  1. Evaliscious

    Genetically I am over 60% European, but my skin is brown so in this country I am black. My family covers the rainbow but in this country it isn't a good thing. (fry the "melting pot"!)In this country adults elected to office will do whatever it takes to make OUR President look bad in order to further their agenda. It is a sad state of affairs when it boils down to party affiliations & not to the betterment of OUR country.

    October 29, 2012 at 1:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Squirrelyone

      So true . . .

      October 31, 2012 at 10:46 am | Report abuse |
  2. USERNAME 0ll0llll0

    Yeah, and despite employment ratios, average wealth indicators down,and all the other problems that would obviously be part of a recession. What else would one expect. The state will continue to improve because we as people must consume and our needs have times we spend and time we earn. Has Obama really done such a terrible job with a broken financial sector, the disruption of a large section of housing, a continuing conflict of importance in the east,manufacturing collapse of major industries in a time when they are the most supportive to this type of situation. This nation gave Bush a second round and I thought the 1 was to much. I am a moderate conservative and I can't support Romney, because even though he understands how the american economy works, it doesn't mean he has the wisdom to strengthen the correct areas within it stucture to facilitate the kind of growth that a nation of our size and tech will support. I don't believe either of the candidates have the analytic vision to bring the country into an the economic goliath that it could very quickly be made into with proper perspective. These people who we have in charge do not know how to spend our collective money wisely. I know Obama has a better empathy with the areas that need support, and a better grip with why social programs are also important. I do not share his reasoning with many things, But he 1 of the 2 apparent choices. Dang

    October 28, 2012 at 6:21 pm | Report abuse |
  3. Penny Wright

    A message for women....

    Mitt Romney is for ending funding for Planned Parenthood...including cancer screenings.

    He said he would overturn Roe v Wade.

    We have Republicans trying to redefine rape....trying to force women to get invasive ultrasounds.

    If you think this election won't effect you and your life, think again.

    Vote for Barack Obama.

    October 28, 2012 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      You misunderstand. Republican woman know it will affect them. They are in fact counting on it. They support the same nonsense their male counter parts do. How could this be you ask? The same way Muslim and Hindu women support their cultures of female oppression. They believe it is their place because they’ve been told so since childhood. After all…its what god wants…right?

      October 30, 2012 at 8:25 am | Report abuse |
  4. Penny Wright

    The Republican Party...come for the misogyny, stay for the racism....

    October 28, 2012 at 10:17 am | Report abuse |
  5. Waltsp

    Benghazi folks, Benghazi will tell the tale.

    October 28, 2012 at 9:27 am | Report abuse |
  6. Allshow

    Too bad the Romney's won't be enjoying those billion dollar lavish vacations courtesy of the American taxpayer on AF1. And the family pet won't have his own jet like the Obamas do.

    October 28, 2012 at 6:35 am | Report abuse |
    • SuperNevadasmith

      Thank Goodness ! Since Romney has shown a propensity to put His pets on the mode of transportation's roof. Seamus didn't suffer in vain.

      October 28, 2012 at 1:03 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Emma in Baltimore

    In years past, if a candidate wasn't consistent in his stances, he was condemned for his pandering. Romney and his team have made it clear that they would be searching to find the right make-over for Romney that would make him appealing to voters. People acknowledge this, yet they choose to ignore the deception and act as if the most recent incarnation of Romney is the true Romney, since that's the one they like best. I find this incredible, and I don't understand how people can be so narrow-minded and bewitched by the latest version of Romney that they are willing to pretend no other Romney ever existed.

    October 28, 2012 at 1:52 am | Report abuse |
  8. Miguel Centeno

    Obama is going to win-There is no republican party anymore only a few wealthy people wanting to get access to power and money while the 99% adjust to poverty. Mit Rommney NEVER had a chance. It is the One percent that manipulate the media to make people believe that he is likely to win. People who believe he had a chance are reflecting only a wish not a reality.

    October 28, 2012 at 12:38 am | Report abuse |
    • Rick Springfield

      Thats just funny. Considering that many of the current most wealthy people in the U.S.A. are uber-Democrats. I'm talking people who are dirt firlthy rich and just awash in billions in cash. How about Oprah, Streisand, Spielberg, Lucas, Clooney, Turner, Degeneres, Cruse, Depp, just to name a few. These people are loooaaaddded to say the least.

      October 28, 2012 at 5:21 am | Report abuse |
    • Amish

      You are right never trust Republicans, because that is what happen to us here in the united kingdom and now we are paying the price.

      October 28, 2012 at 5:25 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Albro

    Our multicultural America is NOT a kaleidoscope: it's a countless number of race-specific BLINDERS. Candidates must make the rounds of every racial/cultural group, and be seen 'sucking up' to them each, separately. Each group demands this lip-service, while ignoring what AMERICA NEEDS!! America used to be called the 'melting pot'. Unfortunately the melting pot has gone cold, and there is no mixing, but only hard edges against hard edges.

    October 27, 2012 at 7:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • Jorge

      The U.S. never was a "melting pot" and never will be, that is just a hopeful illusion. It was, is and will forever be, a series of "turfs," each one ethnic, geographic, socioeconomic and political, within which movement both horizontal and vertical by the individual, will always be hindered or at best unassisted by those different from him. To not know that is to not acknowledge true American social history.

      October 30, 2012 at 8:06 am | Report abuse |
  10. Truth will Prevail

    Latest on BENGHAZI, our GENERALS are saying WHITE HOUSE LIED...what a mess....OBAMA you are going down for this!!!

    October 27, 2012 at 7:37 pm | Report abuse |
    • Adak95

      This Administration is responsible for the DEATHS of four Americans, by ignoring desperate, repeated pleas for help and by not adding extra security on the Anniversary of 9/11. It's called MURDER! Let us begin to reclaim and restore our beloved America. Our hearts & prayers are with the families of the families of those viciously murdered at the hands of our enemies and this Administration.

      October 27, 2012 at 7:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Steve

      Off topic. Please stop interrupting.

      October 28, 2012 at 9:28 am | Report abuse |
  11. Gregg

    Candidates will paint everything peachy and at the end it's black making it clear.

    October 27, 2012 at 7:36 pm | Report abuse |
  12. debbyK

    When elected to the office of President in 2008, does anyone else recall Obama's vow to be the most transparent President ever? Where is the transparency from the Obama administration regarding the Benghazi tragedy? CNN...could you please interview Charles Woods, the grieving father of hero Navy Seal Tyrone? Piers Morgan...step up please! Do you have what it takes to have Mr. Woods on your show?

    October 27, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Report abuse |
    • Adak95

      CNN would never cover anything that would show just how screwed up Obama has our country.

      October 27, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
    • ron

      what level of transparency would satisfy you? and if it did, would you be here supporting obama?

      October 27, 2012 at 7:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • proud American

      You people really need to get over the Libya bombing. Yes, four people died. No, President Obama did not run out a fully explain every little detail to you. There are these funny little things conducted in the real world called investigations. During these investigations intelligence is gathered to determine the situation on the ground. An email about a facebook response is not considered evidence.

      Additionally, clearances are required to have any read in to any type of situation like this and I can guarantee you no substantial information had been cleared for dissemination. Ne happy you were told anything.

      The funding was denied by the republicans, not the President.

      My husband and I have both deployed reportedly and have attended the funerals of our friends. Do not whine to me about 4 peope dying in a bombing of an embassy until you have lived through daily bombings day in day out, fought to save your soldier on a battlefield, or had to look a 22 yr old newly widowed spouse with 3 young children why or how her husband died.

      All courtousy of GW Bush.

      Obama 2012

      October 27, 2012 at 10:49 pm | Report abuse |
      • yeah right

        excuse excuse excuse

        Its GW Bush's fault

        I <3 Obama

        October 28, 2012 at 8:31 am | Report abuse |
      • Squirrelyone

        Well said. It drives me crazy how we want the media and the government to tell us every detail immediately or we feel we've been lied to, shafted, deceived, etc. These are matters of security that affect the whole nation. Our enemies can read our news just as easily as we do. Instant gratification can't be awarded when an investigation is required. Too bad we're taught to despise hierarchy and believe we're each the center of the universe. After all, what could be more on a need-to-know basis than a matter of national security that has already claimed American lives? Yet how few of us can man up to the fact that we don't need to know, and that maintaining transparency during the investigation itself will almost certainly cost more American lives?

        October 31, 2012 at 10:54 am | Report abuse |
      • Adak95

        What a wonderful statement! Now if someone could pass it on to Obama. He was on TV right after Bid laden was killed, destroying any possible Intel coup we had.

        October 31, 2012 at 11:26 am | Report abuse |
  13. Ken Dolan-DelVecchio

    If we lived in a real democracy, every presidential candidate who has done the work of getting on the ballot in enough states so they can potentially win the election–every one of these candidates, not just the Republocrat candidates–would be made equally visible by our mainstream media. If Jill Stein, the Green Party candidate who will appear on 85% of ballots this November, were allowed to debate (the commission on presidential debates was formed by the "two" mainstream parties to prevent other parties from being admitted to the debates), this would be a real election instead of a charade.

    October 27, 2012 at 4:13 pm | Report abuse |
  14. movarth

    The one thing people tend to agree on is Liberty.

    October 27, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Report abuse |
  15. Frank

    Amazing how CNN will stop at nothing to keep the Benghazi story off page one. It's really sad. CNN editors are such Hussein groupies they refuse to cover a story which may very well lead to Obama's impeachment hearings. I guess they don't care since they and the whole country know that President Romney will be the next POTUS. All the fake polls in the world cannot hide what's going on and all the CNN obfuscation cannot keep the biggest story from being read on other news networks such as the number 1 rated network in the nation. Romney for president. We're tired of lies and deficits and failures. Mitt will rescue the nation before it's too late. We can't afford 4 more years of this and more importantly, why should we?

    October 27, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
    • ron

      by your perception, they must have never mentioned it......or should they keep the headlines on for 3 weeks straight, to satisfy your need? what happens if a new day dawns and there is more news?

      perhaps you doth protest too much.

      October 27, 2012 at 7:52 pm | Report abuse |
      • Adak95

        Maybe Obama just needs to step up and say the, “Buck Stops Here”, instead of blaming everyone else and sweeping it under the rug. Cover-up comes to mind. Watergate was just a minor burglary until the Nixon tried to cover it up.

        October 27, 2012 at 8:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Adak95

      You must have stock in the Burka industry.

      October 27, 2012 at 9:54 pm | Report abuse |
  16. Penny Wright

    The Republican Party...come for the misogyny, stay for the racism.

    October 27, 2012 at 3:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • movarth

      *gun rights

      there fixed

      October 27, 2012 at 4:00 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tom

      A penny is what your comment is worth.

      October 27, 2012 at 6:08 pm | Report abuse |
    • lantenec

      Democrat party, come for the lie of "egalitarianism" stay for the soviet style gulags, N Korean style slave labor camps and killing fields like Pol Pot's Cambodia.....

      October 27, 2012 at 10:18 pm | Report abuse |
  17. Penny Wright

    Bush's SEC let Wall Street run a derivatives Ponzi scheme that destroyed the world economy.

    George W. Bush was the goose that flew into the engine.

    Obama landed the plane in the Hudson.

    October 27, 2012 at 3:42 pm | Report abuse |
    • Dave

      Might be true if Obama knew how to fly. He didn't learn that as a community orgranizer.

      October 27, 2012 at 4:05 pm | Report abuse |
  18. OBAMA '12

    Nothing says diversity like a mixed-race president!

    October 27, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
    • .

      Don't forget the doubled poverty rate, 24 million people who've given up looking for work and the anemic 1 percent growth rate.

      Yaaaaay hopey changey diversity!

      Four more years?


      More like four and OUT.

      October 27, 2012 at 3:14 pm | Report abuse |
      • Jude

        Posted on Let's just say that a good general rule is: Do not dress your child like food. Now I am off to send a link to my lil' bro, who is nliortousoy creeped out by walking, talking food mascots. (I'm thinking Twinkie Man, the talking Parkay butter tub, or that time our county fair's mascot was a talking corn dog.) He's going to have nightmares.And so am I.

        November 15, 2012 at 7:56 am | Report abuse |
    • dmacker

      And many of us voted for that diversity in 2008 as well as the promised Hope and Change for a better Washington.
      After four years we have lost our hope for change and Washington and the Country is much worse off. Now we are being told that he now has a plan and needs another term to implement it. Fool me once shame on you.
      Fool me twice shame on me.

      October 27, 2012 at 4:15 pm | Report abuse |
      • Ken Kantor

        Worse off? You must have a very short memory. Americans of all walks of life were terrified by the end of Bush's second term. The financial system was literally starting to collapse. A great depression was widely expected. Leading indicators were tanking. In short, there was deep fear and loathing just about everywhere. Go read some news archives from that period.

        Obama did not build a thriving economy. But, he surely did better than I expected him to. In fact, he did better than I thought was even possible at the time.

        October 27, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Report abuse |
  19. halo117

    It's sad to see that half of the country has been Bamboozled by this FAILURE OF A LEADER .OBAMA.


    October 27, 2012 at 3:10 pm | Report abuse |
  20. RV1982

    By the same token, I'm glad you are finally admitting it was the Republicans that balanced the budget in the 1990s and not Clinton.

    October 27, 2012 at 2:45 pm | Report abuse |
    • Patrick

      Actually, that happened before the Republican congress.

      October 29, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
  21. laserw

    Idiot – Reagan cleaned up the mess of a Democrat in four years and had us on the growth trend that Clinton rode into office. There is no reason that this President with Congress CONTROLLED by HIS PARTY could not have done what Reagan did in four years. The problem with leftist pigs is that they have tried and failed to use social engineering to solve poverty and education issues. Poverty is worse than ever, our children are just as stupid as they were before the Federal Department of Education was created. And yet we continue to throw huge dollars at each issue – poverty programs are so ineffective that it is costing us $60k per household to keep those places above water and our children are doing worse in being able to think critically and to be educated than at any time in history. Our education system is so wretched that exit exams given to children in the late 1800's would stump our brats now – but our brats love themselves above all others and can't add and subtract without calculators and think they are owed praise at every turn.

    October 27, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • Boss69

      First word out of your mouth is to call me an idiot? Then invoke the "great Gipper". Reagan CAUSED MORE economic problems, CLINTON was the one who fixed it. I lived through that time I don't need you to rewrite history.

      October 27, 2012 at 4:06 pm | Report abuse |
  22. .

    There don't appear to be many Obozo supporters here. And this is CNN?

    Oh, man... wait'll the election. I can't wait to see the faces of all the CNN racialists who wanted a second term so badly.

    And all they got was a landslide.

    For Romney.

    October 27, 2012 at 2:44 pm | Report abuse |
  23. laserw

    Ethnic diversity and multiculturalism are perverse and pandering concepts. It has gotten so idiotic and repugnant that if you don't show a face of every color and gender, you are called racist. Our entire nation has forgotten that we are Americans – not hyphenated ones – not faces of every color to be used simply to make us feel good – we are a melting pot of legal immigrants. There is no excuse to have to use every ethnicity other than by multicultural extortion – some group excluded will have its nose out of joint and will protest.

    Our nation has become repugnant – there is no need for bilingual signs in a nation where English is the language and so few LEGAL aliens are here that speak spanish. Now that we have an infestation of illegal immigrants who are stealing the American experience they have no right to take, our companies are pandering to them and that is disgusting. We should never make anyone here illegally comfortable or welcome. People who do not report these illegals are complicit in committing felonies. It is time to stop pandering to the sorry excuse of multiculturalism and expect that those who immigrate here start becoming American. There is no reason for the rest of us to experience having to bend to their needs.

    October 27, 2012 at 2:39 pm | Report abuse |
  24. Real Patriot

    its nauseating. Most western countries do not allow corporations and banks to donate money to politics, and lobbying is illegal. We get to be the banana republic. Politics are bought and paid for.

    October 27, 2012 at 2:07 pm | Report abuse |
    • Game on

      World's #1 economy a banana republic you say? Lol. Guess that makes the rest some really big bananas.

      Multiculturalism works, as long as the cultures coming in are willing to blend and mingle. The ones that don't, such as Islamics and Chinese, they can be kicked out.

      October 27, 2012 at 2:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • laserw

      Thankfully we don't follow what Europe does – high gasoline taxes, punitive tax rates, and expecting someone else to protect them from bad guys. Invoking Europe as a model of success is laughable as they are going down the sewer faster than we are. We should do the direct opposite at every level that Europe is.

      October 27, 2012 at 2:49 pm | Report abuse |
    • Real Patriot

      In the same countries where its illegal for corporations to donate, its illegal for unions and special interest groups to donate as well, sp no I dont have to think very hard to know that makes good sense. corporations are people...only in America

      October 27, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
    • .

      And I suppose it's Real Patriotic to cede your children's future to the public employee unions.

      Well, is it, Mr. Real Patriot?

      Surely you're not THAT stupid.

      Or are you?

      October 27, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Report abuse |
  25. jonathon rau

    i like this issue. one of the things i would like to change is the voting on one person in which we rely on to address a ton if issues. when we feel that things were not handled as we thought they should be we get upset. so on big issues that would affect everyone, i feel that we should have a chance to vote on these just as we all get to vote for a president. issues such as gay marriages, planned
    parenthood, to drill or not. and since congress really arent doing their jobs as they should and the work load does not fit the pay rate..we should get to vote on these issues..i say 3 bills every 3 months..i think that if we did this..we would get way more done than congress...then we could really start to save some money because their pay should go way down since we are doing their job and a whole.

    October 27, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
  26. Penny Wright

    Come to the GOPT for misogyny, stay for the racism.

    October 27, 2012 at 1:44 pm | Report abuse |
    • .

      Yes, Penny. And the government union thug will tell your little girl when she can graduate even though she won't be able to find a job.

      And she'll spend the rest of her life in poverty.

      Now, what was this about birth control?

      October 27, 2012 at 2:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Christopher

      Racism! Waaaaaahhhhhh!

      You cannot force people to like blacks when they commit so much rape and murder and assaults against white people. Screaming racist with every breath isn't going to force people to like what cannot be liked.

      October 27, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Report abuse |
  27. Fred Smith

    It is so sad to go to CNN, ABC, CBS, NBC and see the news is corrupt. The real Americans cry out for news on the Libya cover up on these media outlets but no news comes. Who would have thought American news would let us down.

    October 27, 2012 at 1:11 pm | Report abuse |
    • ericgoestoholland

      Nothing says "legitimate news" like conspiracy theories.

      October 27, 2012 at 1:19 pm | Report abuse |
  28. Fargo

    Optics? Why not call them what they are – ads, propaganda, gimmicks, spin? "Optics" just sounds like a bunch of advertising gurus trying to act all scientific with a technological euphemism for the same old trash.

    October 27, 2012 at 12:56 pm | Report abuse |
  29. Ordinary Average American

    America gave Obama a fair chance and a fair shake.
    This time, let's vote for the best candidate, instead of who the Liberals believe is Mr. Dreamy.
    Voting for President is a lot like choosing a spouse.
    You might think your boyfriend is cool, but would you really want to live with him the rest of your life? How long with that crush you have last, and what happens when Mr. Dreamy bankrupts you, starving you and the kids. What happens when Mr. Dreamy is off being a social butterfly, while you and the kids are rearranging your furniture on the sidewalk in front of the house you used to live in?
    When you marry a guy, you want someone who is Mr. Wonderful, but you also need a guy who is stable. You need a guy who is honest with you. You need a guy who knows how to focus on the most important things. You need a guy who is smart and one who knows how to work. -Otherwise, you're just going to be out of luck.

    October 27, 2012 at 12:53 pm | Report abuse |
    • Rob

      There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. M]y job is not to worry about those people. I'll never convince them they should take personal responsibility and care for their lives."
      Mitt Romney Stands by 47% Statement
      Romney on '47%': I was 'completely wrong'
      Yeah, that's stable.

      October 27, 2012 at 3:50 pm | Report abuse |
      • dmacker

        I'm in the 47% and I need a job and the opportunity to provide for my family.
        What I don't need is the promise of more free stuff.
        I don't want free stuff.
        I want to earn my way and feel good about it.
        I'm voting for the guy who has had a job and earned his money the old fashion way.
        I hope to one day be able to pay my fair share in income taxes and then another 15% on my capital gains like Mr. Romney. I admire someone who worked his way up the ladder of success and arrived. I'm not hitching my plow to a horse that has never pulled a wagon.

        October 27, 2012 at 4:27 pm | Report abuse |
    • ajdjsafjafd

      You're totally not an ordinary republican

      October 27, 2012 at 4:48 pm | Report abuse |
    • DAT

      “America gave Obama a fair chance and a fair shake” REALLY? With obstructionist Republicans opposing everything he did? He has done damn well DESPITE the Republicans in Congress.

      October 27, 2012 at 10:04 pm | Report abuse |
      • Adak95

        I think you have conveniently forgotten Odumba had a Democrat controlled congress his first two years. And this year I thought we had some democrats in congress, March 28 2012, “Obama budget defeated 414-0”, I must be wrong.

        October 27, 2012 at 10:11 pm | Report abuse |
      • Patrick

        Unfortunately people remember things the way they want to. Yes Obama had a democratic congress the first two years, but remember the filibusters? The obstruction? the vows to oppose everything he did to make him look like a failure? No, conservatives have forgotten all about that.

        October 29, 2012 at 2:12 pm | Report abuse |
      • Adak95

        And the Democrats controlled congress for how long before that? You seem to have very selective memory.

        October 29, 2012 at 2:20 pm | Report abuse |
  30. Free Man in the Republic of Texas

    Seeing campaigns through a multicultural kaleidoscope...


    And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, greed, evil; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malice; they are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, arrogant, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, without understanding, untrustworthy, unloving, unmerciful; and although they know the ordinance of God, that those who practice such things are worthy of death, they not only do the same, but also give hearty approval to those who practice them.
    Romans 1:28-32

    FORWARD -> -> ->
    To total depravity !!!

    October 27, 2012 at 12:31 pm | Report abuse |
    • .

      Multiculturalism is horse manure. It's all about scaring minorities to vote for Democrats.

      But if you're unemployed, broke and impoverished, does the color of your skin really matter?

      Only if you ate the horse manure, in which case you're in for a life of personal failure. Because the only politician who can help you is the one you see in the mirror every morning when you wake up.

      That is, if you wake up.

      October 27, 2012 at 2:17 pm | Report abuse |
  31. kenhbradshaw


    October 27, 2012 at 12:29 pm | Report abuse |
  32. Ordinary Average American

    Bo: You are pretty much the poster-child for Media Matters Trolls.
    A. You tell your political opponent to "shut up", thinking that only YOU have a right to free speech.
    B. You call your political opponent "paranoid = crazy" and other names.
    C. You belittle your political opponent by claiming that they don't see the whole picture (like you supposedly do) , and you
    D. Start taking nonsense about "tin foil hats" , claiming again that your political opponent is crazy or something.
    You know almost nothing, and whatever you might know, you are afraid to express, and whatever you might know, you are afraid to bring any explanation or facts to your side. -Because you have none.
    We need more grownups elected and more grownups in the political process.
    I have had enough of listening to and reading juvenile delinquents and monkeys typing on Meth.
    Our country has serious problems, and we need serious people with serious solutions.

    October 27, 2012 at 12:27 pm | Report abuse |
  33. Penny Wright

    If you want to privatize Social Security and Medicare, lower taxes for the rich, outlaw abortion, and start a new war with Iran, vote Republican.

    October 27, 2012 at 12:18 pm | Report abuse |
    • Fred Smith

      Ok then. We will. Thanks.

      October 27, 2012 at 1:14 pm | Report abuse |
    • Christopher

      I do want that, and I did vote. Romney 2012!

      October 27, 2012 at 2:13 pm | Report abuse |
    • Kevin

      I'm in for Romney too. You tool!

      October 27, 2012 at 3:22 pm | Report abuse |
  34. 2tor

    We see cam[aigns these days through biased media. The kaleidoscope is trying to peer through the demagoguery of the MSM, and find the truth.

    October 27, 2012 at 12:13 pm | Report abuse |
  35. Mike

    Immigrants made America great and immigrants will save Great America Dream.

    October 27, 2012 at 12:06 pm | Report abuse |
    • Adak95

      You're right just forgot a word, LEGAL.

      October 27, 2012 at 4:26 pm | Report abuse |
  36. Christopher

    When the day comes that I can walk around mobs of blacks without being harassed, insulted and threatened I may look at multiculturalism in a positive light. The real world influences how I think, not propaganda with an agenda.

    October 27, 2012 at 12:04 pm | Report abuse |
    • Tim

      youz got dat right. LOL.

      October 27, 2012 at 12:26 pm | Report abuse |
  37. Christopher

    Using multicultural images in the media isn't going to necessarily have a positive effect, especially when in the real world you have rampant black on white rape, murder and mob assaults. Just the other day in Oakland, a black mob of teens almost beat a white girl teenager to death, these attacks and other crimes are prevalent in society, people know what is happening in this country and it doesn't help one bit that the mainstream media totally ignores these stories. You aren't keeping people by not reporting these racial crimes, you are infuriating people by not reporting it.

    October 27, 2012 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
  38. wardenhallis

    It's ironic that an article that ask the question about establishing images, catch phrases and designed manipulation at the same time pushes the new media catch phrase "Optics"...lol...now that's funny.

    October 27, 2012 at 11:56 am | Report abuse |
  39. Lexx

    Politics, and the media are about lies. Only a complete foll believes either has anything to do with truth.

    October 27, 2012 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
  40. Jand Meditz

    Simply, voters are intelligent enough to know these ads represent our goal. Simply, at election, the visionary believes their vision of choice (party), the pragmatists judge (independent)

    October 27, 2012 at 11:46 am | Report abuse |
  41. Hotsake40

    How can you compare Romny with the president? Romny and the republican and Romny don't care about diversity and multicultural. Wake up America!

    October 27, 2012 at 11:44 am | Report abuse |
    • Kevin

      You're right! Romney cares about Americans, including our ambassadors.

      October 27, 2012 at 3:24 pm | Report abuse |
      • Adak95

        Kevin, you have it right.

        October 27, 2012 at 4:24 pm | Report abuse |
      • SAM

        Romney seems to shift his stances so much and lacks a good grasp of international affairs. SAM

        October 28, 2012 at 4:56 am | Report abuse |