Jones 1 The party platform at one time was designed to lay a foundation for the policy changes a party

would attempt to pass once they gained power. Today in the modern world of campaigns and candidate centered politics the platform of a party exists to highlight what the party believes, and excite their base on particular issues. Parties today no longer run campaigns for their presidential candidates, in fact, today parties are used by the presidential candidate to fundraise, run advertisements, and coordinate efforts. Much like the current usage of the parties in an electoral sense, platforms are not used by candidates as a guiding document for policy positions, but rather platforms often highlight the key messages of a parties respective presidential candidate. This is evidenced by the messaging of the 2008 Democratic party platform that states in it’s preamble, “The time for change has come, and America must seize it” (Democratic National Committee 7). This statement nearly replicates the messaging of the Obama for America campaign. With the emergence candidate centered campaigns and the decline of party influence, the party platform has become a prime messaging tool for the party to promote their presidential candidate. In 2008 the Barack Obama campaign used the key messaging point’s of “change” and “hope”. These two key points were used in most of the speeches by then Senator Obama. In his speech to the Democratic National Convention Barack Obama said, “It's time for us to change America. And that's why I'm running for president of the United States ” (“Democratic Presidential Nomination Acceptance Address”). This messaging continued through the duration of campaign, in a speech one week before the election Obama said, “In one week, at this defining moment in history, you can give this country the change we need ” (“One Week to Go: Speech in Ohio”). The communication goal of the Obama campaign was to paint the past eight years of

Jones 2 policy under Republican control as a disaster and point out the need for change. The messaging was not all negative, but mostly messaging that would strike emotion in the listeners. In Barack Obama’s closing remarks in his convention address he tried to strike a mixture of positive and negative emotion while reinforcing his argument for change by saying, “America, we cannot turn back. Not with so much work to be done. Not with so many children to educate, and so many veterans to care for. Not with an economy to fix and cities to rebuild and farms to save. Not with so many families to protect and so many lives to mend. America, we cannot turn back” (“Democratic Presidential Nomination Acceptance Address”). The goal of the Obama campaign was to paint a negative picture of the past eight years and highlight the need for change. On the Republican side Senator John McCain had to fight the message of change that resinated with the American people with a very different message. To combat the message of change by the Obama Campaign, the McCain camp decided to play off the experience of their candidate. They drew this argument from the fact that John McCain had been a long time military leader and senator. They also tied in the argument that Senator McCain’s experience would help keep America safe. In his address to the Republican National Convention he drew the message of experience and military leadership together, “I'm running for president to keep the country I love safe and prevent other families from risking their loved ones in war as my family has. I will draw on all my experience with the world and its leaders, and all the tools at our disposal -- diplomatic, economic, military, and the power of our ideals -- to build the foundations for a stable and enduring peace ” (“Republican Presidential Nomination Acceptance Address”). This statement drew all the key messaging points of the McCain campaign together in two sentences. McCain would later use these messaging points of

Jones 3 leadership and experience in the wake of an economic crisis, “Senator Obama took a very different approach to the crisis our country faced. At first he didn't want to get involved. Then he was "monitoring the situation." That's not leadership, that's watching from the sidelines” (“Campaign Stop in Ohio”). This statement draws from his argument that he is more experienced and has the leadership qualities needed, but uses it show that these qualities can help America recover economically. Looking at a third party candidate will help further examine the relationship between the messaging of platforms and presidential candidates. The Constitution Party candidate for President in 2008 was Chuck Baldwin. The messaging by the Baldwin campaign was not as concise and pointed as the messaging among the major parties, but still featured a few key points. In an address to the John Birch Society Mr Baldwin said, “When we lose our sovereignty and independence, we will lose our freedom of religion " (Farmer). This statement sums up the basic principle of the messaging of the Baldwin campaign; a call for freedom and a belief in God. In an argument for second amendment rights Mr Baldwin draws biblical references to make his point (Farmer). The Baldwin campaign tried to draw biblical messages into each of their arguments to reinforce the message of a government that follows biblical principles. After examining at the key messaging points of the major candidates it is evident that their messaging can be broken down to a few points. The Obama campaign uses words like “hope” and “change” to draw emotion to their message. They are able to use the word change to attack the Republicans and point out Senator Obama’s plans for the future. McCain’s campaign used leadership and experience to point out Senator McCain’s military experience and show that Barack Obama was not ready to lead. These campaigns had many policy positions and other

Jones 4 messaging points, but their key points guided every argument they made. These key messaging points also helped guide what was written in some of these party platforms. The platform of the Democratic party contains many policy positions they believe they will move America forward. Though the platform has policy positions that Senator Obama might not agree fully with, the messaging of this document had many of the key talking points used by the Obama campaign. The preamble of the platform opens by stating, “We come together at a defining moment in the history of our nation – the nation that led the 20th century, built a thriving middle class, defeated fascism and communism, and provided bountiful opportunity to many ” (Democratic National Committee 5). What makes this statement so important is it’s near replication to the speeches Barack Obama made. In his Democratic convention speech Senator Obama made nearly the exact same statement, “We meet at one of those defining moments - a moment when our nation is at war, our economy is in turmoil, and the American promise has been threatened once more ” (“Democratic Presidential Nomination Acceptance Address”). The Democratic Platform states, “The American people do not want government to solve all our problems;” (Democratic National Committee 6). In the same convention speech Obama echoed nearly the same statement, “Ours is a promise that says government cannot solve all our problems, but what it should do is that which we cannot do for ourselves” (“Democratic Presidential Nomination Acceptance Address”). The Democratic platform is in complete alignment with the messaging of the Obama campaign. Many of the statements of the platform match word for word with those of the Democratic candidate for President. The Republican party platform does not replicate the exact messaging of their candidate as much as the Democratic platform, but does reinforce similar messages.

Jones 5 When examining the Republican platform it is clear that the messaging alignment that existed with the Obama campaign and the Democratic platform does not exist in the Republican platform. Examining the preamble of the GOP platform shows just how out of tune the party platform is with their candidate. The preamble does not address any of the key points or arguments made by the McCain campaign. Examining the preamble of the platform highlights the Republican message, “We offer it to our fellow Americans in the assurance that our Republican ideals are those that unify our country: Courage in the face of foreign foes. An optimistic patriotism, driven by a passion for freedom. Devotion to the inherent dignity and rights of every person” (Republican National Committee i). Though this statement attempts to strike at a similar message of the McCain campaign, “courage”, it does not link the party with the candidate the way the Democratic platform does. The first issue the Republican platform addresses is that of national security; the issue that John McCain is most experienced on and the one he plays up on the campaign trail (Republican National Committee 1). When campaigning, Senator McCain plays up his years of knowledge and experience on the issues of national security. In a speech just days before the election took place, John McCain made a speech about national security in which he questioned Barack Obama’s ability to lead on national security issues, and also gave the impression he has the experience needed to lead, “But the question is whether this is a man who has what it takes to protect America from Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, and other grave threats in the world” (“McCain's National Security Remarks in Tampa”). The argument that Barack Obama is not ready to lead a nation on the brink of a terrorist attack is a very effective counter to Obama’s calls for change. Campaign and Elections wrote that John McCain’s message should focus on national security, “McCain's task now is to keep the focus on

Jones 6 national security” ("Winning the Message War"). With national security being the primary focus of the McCain campaign, it is good to list national security first in the GOP platform, but the platform does not use key phrases of “experience” and “leadership” to highlight their presidential candidate in this section of the platform. Looking beyond the two major parties helps to highlight the relationship between presidential candidates and their parties platforms. The Constitution Parties core beliefs are freedom and a country that follows a creator and natural law. The preamble of the platform reads, “The sole purpose of government, as stated in the Declaration of Independence, is to secure our unalienable rights given us by our Creator. When Government grows beyond this scope, it is usurpation, and liberty is compromised” (Constitution Party Platform). This sums up what the party believes in and fights for. Chuck Baldwin was the parties candidate for president in 2008; in his campaign he echoed a similar message to that of having religion involved in government when he said, “We just need to elect more Christians to public office" (Farmer). Though the platform of the Constitution Party is smaller and less specific on issues than the other major parties, they do state basic principles and their candidate for president echoes these same principles. Much like the Republican party, the Constitution party does not integrate the rhetoric of their candidates in the party platform. Though not integrating the messaging of the presidential candidate is not a big of an issue for a third party because their candidates have little chance of winning, and the campaigns of third party candidates are less candidate centered and more centered on the third party the candidate is in. After examining the platforms and the messaging they contain, one can see why the Democratic parties candidate had a message advantage in 2008. The party integrated the key

Jones 7 points of Barack Obama into their most important document, almost endorsing the candidate. By doing this the Democratic party is able to promote their candidates message in their platform. In contrast the Republican platform does not provide a ringing endorsement of John McCain. The platform does list national security as the first issue, and uses somewhat similar words to those used by McCain, but does not integrate his exact message. The issue with this is that the party is using it’s own message rather than the message of their candidate. When this is done the Republican party uses two messages; John McCain’s message and the Republican Parties message. Though these messages are similar, they do not match. The Washington Post examines the Republican platform and the stances of John McCain; they find that the platform and McCain differ on multiple issues such as immigration and stem cell research ("WHOSE VIEWS?). This sums up the problem with the GOP message, they fail to communicate a coherent coordinated message from the party officials all the way down to the McCain campaign. Whereas the Democrats use the exact messaging of the Obama campaign, and voters hear one unified message from the Democrats and two from the Republicans and Constitution Party. When CCN asked voters, “Which Candidate Quality Matters Most?” in their exit 2008 national exit poll poll, 34% of respondents said “Can Bring Change”, of those who said change was most important 89% voted for Barack Obama and 9% voted for McCain. In the same survey only 20% of the respondents said the “Experience” was most important, 93% of those who thought experience was most important voted for McCain (“Presidential National Exit Poll”). The message of “change” won out in this election, and the Obama campaign and the Democratic party did a very good job of promoting this message.

Jones 8 As parties have moved away from focus in the American electorate and the candidates have taken center stage, the messaging of the parties and the candidates must be similar. Voters who take in these message need to hear one message from the party and the candidate. In 2008 the Obama campaign was able to use two mediums to send their singular message, this resulted in a message that was consistent and non confusing. According to a branding firm founder Brian Collins, the Obama message was as consistent as those of large corporations, "Across towns, counties, states -- and with thousands of volunteers, no less -- across multiple media platforms, they've managed to drive a potent, single-minded design and messaging coherence that should shame many national brands. I mean, this is close to a level of design strategy from a great brand like Nike or Target" (Wheaton). The Obama’s campaigns ability to use a singular message among their campaign and party platform was certainly a factor the effectiveness of their message. Moving forward party platforms should take a look at what the Democrats did in 2008 and what the Constitution Party and Republican party did not do, use the messaging of their candidate to write their platform.

Jones 9 Works Cited "Constitution Party National Platform." Constitution Party. Web. 9 Nov. 2010. <http://>. Democratic National Committee. Democratic National Convention Committee. Democratic Platform: Renewing America's Promise. Denver: Democratic National Committee, 2008. 1-7. Print. Farmer, Brian. "Chuck Baldwin Addresses John Birch Society." The New American. 7 Oct. 2008. Web. 9 Nov. 2010. <>. McCain, John. "Campaign Stop in Ohio." Speech. Columbus. 29 Sept. 2008. Presidential Rhetoric. Web. 9 Nov. 2010. < campaign2008/mccain/09.29.08.html>. McCain, John. "McCain's National Security Remarks in Tampa." Speech. Tampa. 29 Oct. 2008. Real Clear Politics. 29 Oct. 2008. Web. 9 Nov. 2010. <http://>. McCain, John. "Republican Presidential Nomination Acceptance Address." Speech. Republican National Convention. St Paul. 4 Sept. 2008. Presidential Rhetoric. Web. 9 Nov. 2010. <>. Obama, Barack. "Democratic Presidential Nomination Acceptance Address." Speech. Democratic National Convention. Denver. 28 Aug. 2008. Presidential Rhetoric. Web. 12 Nov. 2010. < speeches/obama.html>. Obama, Barack. "One Week to Go: Speech in Ohio." Speech. One Week to Go: Speech in Ohio. Canton. 27 Oct. 2008. Presidential Rhetoric. Web. 9 Nov. 2010. <http://>. "President National Exit Poll." CNN. Election Center 2008, 4 Nov. 2008. Web. 11 Nov. 2010. <>. Republican National Committee. Republican Platform Committee. 2008 Republican Platform. Minneapolis: Republican National Committee, 2008. i-1. Print. "WHOSE VIEWS? McCain, Platform Unlikely to Align." Washington Post. The Trail, 27 Aug. 2008. Web. 14 Nov. 2010. < article/ 2008/08/26/AR2008082603832.html>.

Jones 10 Wheaton, Ken. "Adaptable Team Stays on Message While Using Social Networking to Build Voter Roles." Advertising Age. 17 Oct. 2008. Web. 9 Nov. 2010. <http://>. "Winning the Message War." Politics (Campaigns & Elections) 29.8 (2008): 30-35. Academic Search Complete. EBSCO. Web. 11 Nov. 2010.