Jun 21, 2022 • 30M

A former candidate's lament: 'You in the media don't help us grapple with policy decisions'

Do voters really want more policy in campaign coverage?

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David Catanese
Mostly politics. With a side of personal. Always #profound, perhaps problematic.
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Jim Rubens is a Republican in New Hampshire who has run unsuccessfully for the U.S. Senate nomination twice; in 2014 against Scott Brown and in 2016 in a challenge to incumbent Sen. Kelly Ayotte.

After posting my piece on The Power of a Simple Response, which defined the three different types of political communicators, Rubens replied with his own response and lament about the lack of substantive policy discussion included in most campaign coverage.

Rubens wrote:

Echoing your critique of ghosting but this time from the candidate / politician side. I've twice [been] then a second-tier candidate for US Senate but one with a serious idea based policy agenda. What's immensely frustrating is that reporters seem interested in covering only candidates who are polling well or whoever raised or have access to competitively large sums of campaign money. The result is concentrated coverage of gaffs, personal squabbles, horse race stuff ... but next to no coverage or treatment of alternative means to address major policy questions. One result is a completely cynical voter. Another is pervasively issue free campaigns focused on attacks against other candidates. A third is policy gridlock.

As someone who writes a lot about horse racing humans, I quickly realized this was a fair critique given that three main criteria drives coverage of candidates: 1) Polling 2) The ability to raise money 3) Celebrity/notoriety (having held higher office).

If I was honest, I had to confess that a candidate’s policy rarely drove coverage plans or story ideas in the political campaign context. Political reporters are programmed to write pieces about who is running, which candidates have a chance to win and what the metrics are to support that case for victory. If a candidate flubs or blurts out a falsehood, that attracts coverage too.

But policy?

But are most voters even looking for deep dives into policy details? Or are they programmed to cast their ballots based on personality, charisma and … familiarity?

Rubens and I jumped on a Zoom to discuss this conundrum, his struggles against “celebrity” candidate Brown, and how he’d reform campaign coverage.

Please give the episode a LISTEN and let me know what you think.

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