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Election 2012: Lessons to Learn from Turkey

For some time now, there has been a close ongoing dialog between President Obama and Turkey’s President Erdogan. Erdogan was just re-elected, and is closing in on a decade in power in that country. As President Obama spins up his re-election campaign, it would not be surprising to see him emulate many of the techniques used by his friend in Turkey.

Like Erdogan, Obama’s primary focus will likely be a direct appeal to the voters, because as P.T. Barnum once observed, “You will never go broke by underestimating the intelligence of the American public.” Obama has proven himself to be a devastatingly effective public speaker, especially when reading from a teleprompter, as long as words like “corpsman” aren’t in the mix. The formula from his 2008 presidential campaign worked so well for him that it is unlikely he would deviate from it very much in the next election cycle.

The second thing that Obama is almost certain to employ is the very effective election “machine” so capably wielded by his staff in 2008. Again, this is a technique that was deployed very effectively by Erdogan. A large percentage of the key players from the successful 2008 campaign are expected to return, including David Axelrod, who was in charge of Media in 2008, Jim Messina, who worked in the White House as Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations from 2009 until 2011, Matthew Barzun, the United States Ambassador to Sweden, to serve as finance chairman, Jennifer O’Malley Dillon, who worked at the Democratic National Committee, Julianna Smoot, who was the 2008 finance director, and Ben LaBolt who will likely serve as national press secretary. Rahm Emanunel is also expected to play a role in the campaign, but with a more-than-full-time job as Mayor of Chicago, is more likely to be a designated hitter than part of the starting lineup in 2012. Other Democrat faithfuls filling out the team are likely to include: Rufus Gifford, Elizabeth Lowery, Jeremy Bird Marshall, Mitch Stewart, and Elizabeth Jarvis-Shean.

However, His friend Mr. Erdogan also represents an extremely powerful example of the very thing that could bring Obama down in this next election cycle. Erdogan constantly stressed economic recovery under his leadership, contrasting it with the crisis under his immediate predecessors. He was thus able to persuade many voters to choose to maintain stability by keeping him in power instead of risking a switch to its untried opponents.

Obama was successful with this ploy over the first 6 to 12 months of his tenure in the White House, but for the most part people are no longer accepting that excuse. 3 years into his term in office, the United States remains trapped in a malaise of 9+ percent unemployment, growing trade deficits, and a Federal debt that tripled – swelling to staggering levels as a direct result of Obama’s policies. He is out of runway in terms of his ability to blame the current economic disaster on the Bush Administration.

In addition, in spite of his promises to close the detention center at Guantanamo and bring American involvement in Middle East conflicts to a close, none of these promises have been kept. President Obama has committed to an extension and even an interim build-up of troop levels in Afghanistan. He has also been flirting with putting “boots on the ground” in Libya. He ordered the assassination of bin Laden in Pakistan, which made the US very unpopular in that country – although it was the right thing to do. These actions and other similar steps that reflect a more realistic world view, born of necessity, have alienated many of the far-left fringe players that worked so hard to rally support for Obama in 2008.

2012 should be a very interesting election year indeed. There is still a lot of ground to cover between now and election day, and anything could happen. But as we gear up for this next cycle, both sides should look at the example of Turkey’s President Erdogan to learn a few things about what works – for and against presidential candidates.

What do you think?

2 Responses to “Election 2012: Lessons to Learn from Turkey”

  1. Reva Lee says:

    You’ve got some great points here. I think Obama is going to have to change some things if he has any chance at all. What he used last time is redundant at this point.

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