Feb. 5, 2008, Is the Political Maginot Line

Rogue States Steam Ahead; Media Tactics Should Be Written in Pencil

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Evan Tracey Evan Tracey
For those of you who love history, the Maginot Line needs no explanation; for those of you with a life, I will explain. The Maginot Line was built by the French after World War I to hold off the Germans in case they decided to invade in the future. The idea was if they built a fortified cement line with guns and tanks it would slow down an advancing enemy long enough for French troops to repel the attackers. The Maginot Line's ultimate place in history was as metaphor for ineffectiveness. The Germans simply went around the line and ended up in Paris before the croissants were out of the oven.

This year, in an effort to curtail states from moving their primary dates forward and infringing on the nomination troika of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, the national political parties made Feb. 5 the line in the sand that states could not cross, thus establishing a "super-duper primary." That primary would end the nomination process, declare each party's winner sooner and more decisively than ever before, and allow larger states such as California to play a role.

Today it appears that Wyoming, Florida and Michigan have all run around that line and have moved right into downtown Des Moines, Manchester and Columbia.

So what does this mean for ad spending, you ask? This fluid calendar means a couple of things. First, it means that ad timetables and media plans had better be written in pencil. Secondly, it means that no matter what the final calendar looks like, Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina will matter immensely for campaigns looking to gain momentum or prevent early slip ups.

Finally, it may mean that some campaigns that have signed pledges to not participate in the "rogue primary states" may need to look closely at network media options such as cable and radio that will get their message out in a way that allows them to swear their intentions are pure. A network cable buy like the ones Romney used early on would afford a campaign the echo effect of having its ads run nationwide and be seen by voters in these rogue states.

Historically, the voters of Iowa and New Hampshire have not treated candidates who flirted with states that moved too close on the calendar very well. Even with pledges and party sanctions in place, it won't be enough to stop states from holding their primaries, and the press from covering them, before Feb. 5. So with the party leaders scrambling to solve this calendar crisis, the campaigns that rack up the most wins in the pre-super-duper Tuesday states will have the momentum they need to win the nominations.

As the French say, c'est la vie!

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Evan Tracey is the founder and chief operating officer of Campaign Media Analysis Group, a TNS Media Intelligence company. See his complete bio.