“A-B-C. A-Always, B-Be, C-Closing. Always be closing, always be closing.” – Blake, Glengarry Glen Ross
In his famous (and colorful) speech in Glengarry Glen Ross, Alec Baldwin’s character Blake extols the necessary virtue of closing a sale. The same can be said about a good campaign. Good campaigns strive for something that is going to make people vote FOR their candidate, not just AGAINST their opponent. We call that a “positive close.”
The problem with attack ads is that they may drive up the uncertainty on an opponent, but that doesn’t necessarily mean people are going to vote for the other candidate. Campaigns must give people a reason to move from the undecided column. Negativity, in and of itself, simply diminishes turnout. If people don’t have someone to vote for, they stay home.
In this world of independent expenditures and what seemed like countless attack ads, the positive close can feel like it has been lost, but it is still incredibly necessary.
In the race for President, President Obama’s positive close helped rally his base around his accomplishments, his social positions, and his change 2.0 mantra of “Forward.” He was also helped by some signs of economic recovery and his proactive response to Hurricane Sandy. Meanwhile, Romney failed to complete the narrative of what he was for – and stuck to simply being against what the President had done. We said way back in February, “If Romney wants to win, he needs to prove that he is more than just good marketing.” He failed to do so.
In the Arizona Senate race, Jeff Flake executed the positive close very well. When the polls started to tighten up, his campaign used the final three weeks to extol his virtues using McCain, Kyl, and even Governor Romney. In the best move of all, they ended the campaign with back to back solid commercials of Flake speaking directly to the camera and asking for the vote. Flake certainly had help in the final weeks from groups that both turned out his vote and attacked his opponent – it allowed him to focus on being likeable and closing strong.
As for the “too close to call” congressional races, there was so much vitriol that any attempt at a positive close was left by the wayside. In the end, the victory will probably go to whoever did the best job of establishing their positive narrative early.