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Wednesday, February 25, 2015

"Branding" the 2016 candidates as new and improved?

 First: Breaking news. You can now actually enroll and save a spot in my free Internet class on the Iowa caucuses. The first session starts September 1, 2015. Please go here:

Iowa View
Steffen Schmidt 11:09 p.m. CST February 23, 2015 Des Moines Register

Consumers like to know their product.

If it’s Coke, they want Coke not “New Coke.”

The latest news is that former Sen. Hillary Clinton has hired a public relations firm to help her define herself. That seems to be the main reason she hasn’t declared her 2016 candidacy for president — she’s still trying to figure out who she is.

Some are shocked at this. Actually, it’s not such an odd thing in politics.

Think of the candidates running for president in 2016 as a product. After all, they are offering their signature qualities and asking consumers of political leadership and ideology to buy their product and not the “other” products available on the market. I’m assuming there will be at least two or three alternatives to Hillary Clinton on the Democratic Party side. We know Republicans will have a bonanza of alternatives.

Selling the product requires each candidate to first of all “brand” herself or himself. The marketing field explains that, “Your brand is your promise to your customer. It tells them what they can expect from your products and services, and it differentiates your offering from that of your competitors. Your brand is derived from who you are, who you want to be and whom people perceive you to be.” This is precisely what political candidates must do. Especially the part about “whom you want people to perceive you to be.”

Second, candidates then need to develop “brand loyalty.” That means assuring that people will come back to the same candidate, i.e. the same brand.

Companies and candidates who successfully cultivate loyal customers also develop brand ambassadors. These are consumers who will buy into a certain brand and then talk positively about it among their friends. “This is free word-of-mouth marketing for the company and is often very effective,” according to This is clearly also the optimal outcome for political candidates. We call it “going viral,” which can be either digital or simply analog by word of mouth.
According to Bloomberg BusinessWeek, MIT Sloan School marketing professor Renée Richardson Gosline has noted that to inspire loyalty you need to offer a unique feeling not just a vague idea. A product, i.e. a candidate, must fit a specific brand identity and send a signal of what that brand is and “… carry the same brand identity signal across the entire product.” The brand label must not “dilute its identity.” That means candidates need to drill down on their identity, reinforce it, refine it but not swerve too far away from the brand the consumers know.

My best example of this is former Vice President Al Gore. When he ran for president in 2000, one of the observation by the media, pundits and even many voters was that he “does a perfect imitation of a tree.” In other words he was stiff and conventional.

I followed that race for the White House very closely and it soon became evident that someone was messing with Al Gore, trying to transform him. The first thing we noticed was that he suddenly started wearing a Palm Pilot on his belt.

Palm Pilot was a digital organizer launched in 1992 with which you could manage your calendar and other information. Remember that Gore was said to have “invented the Internet,” which he didn’t actually do. As a matter of fact, I remember stories reporting that President Bill Clinton and Gore had to be taught how to use a computer. So, Gore’s handlers decided to make him “cool” and “techie” by slapping a Palm on his waist.

Then, a few months later at a big rally in the Memorial Union at Iowa State University, I had a front-row seat. Gore emerged on stage and I immediately noticed that he was wearing “Earth tones.” That must have been part of his evolution to an environmentalist which, of course, culminated in the publishing of his book, “An Inconvenient Truth,” and the Nobel Prize shared with the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

But, I also noticed that he was wearing super-tight pants, which startlingly accentuated his buttocks. That was unfamiliar and out of character.

When these changes became clear to the media, and even to voters, the reaction was that people liked the “old Gore” much better even if he was boring like a tree.

In other words, they liked the existing brand, the “Old Coke” better than the “rebranded” Gore, i.e. the “New Coke.”

I’ll be watching the 2016 contenders closely to see how they brand themselves. Especially Hillary Clinton.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

The Democratic race for the White House started last night!

We know that the Republican race for the White House started on January 24, 2015 with the Freedom Summit organized by Congressman Steve King and Citizens United.

The Democratic race for a win in the Iowa Presidential Caucuses started last night, February 21, 2015 in Ames, Iowa.

That was the night that Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders packed the house at the Story County Democrats Soup Supper. I've been to many Republican and Democratic Party events in my 45 year's at Iowa State University. I have never seen a more energized crowd.

While there was a "Ready for Hillary" table, it was clear that many of the attendees were really "Ready for Anyone But Hillary."

Sanders never mentioned Clinton but he railed against social inequality, the threat of the Koch Brothers billion dollar political offensive, the income gap that has driven down real middle class salaries, and Wall Street.

His message was a well disguised ambush of Clinton's "stealth campaign" for the Iowa Presidential caucuses season.

Democrats have been chafing at the bit for their White House race to start, anxious that the Republicans have dominated the agenda.

As I talked with many Democratic leaders at the soup dinner it became clear that there is deep anxiety among Democrats and also independent caucus attendees (they were very prominent at the event) about the potential Democratic field for 2016. The question is still asked "Steffen, do you think in the end Hillary will run?"

The other question, of course, is "Steffen, who else besides Hillary do you think will run?"

I personally believe at this moment that several Democrats will compete for the three top places in the Iowa caucuses: Bernie Sanders, Jim Webb, and Martin O'Malley will compete in Iowa. I don't think that Elizabeth Warren will throw her hat in the ring.

There was relief at the possibility of a vigorous competition in the Democratic Party contest.  A coronation of Clinton is universally seen as a very bad idea.

Sanders is a passionate and focused speaker. His message is no doubt the most liberal of any 2016 contender. Many Democrats feel that this is just what the party needs to juxtapose itself against the Republican conservative message. I heard more than once that 2016 may be the year for populism and not for more "Clinton New Democrat" triangulation.

I think if Sanders organizes his campaign professionally and gets good advice from experienced Iowans not some out of town, slick, professional campaign managers, he can give Hillary a run for the money and she will have a bushel basket full of money.

More in my next blog on out of state "professional" campaign managers.

(all photographs 2015, (c) Schmidt, SEAS LLC)

Friday, February 20, 2015

Iowa Caucuses MOOC progressing nicely

I'm delighted to tell you that The MOOC on the Iowa Presidential caucuses is developing just as we hoped.

Our delivery platform will be Canvas. It is a terrific delivery system that is clean and has great usability. We will share some more information once wee mount our MOOC page. (Of course, the caucuses class will not actually open up until September and then it will be repeated several times for your convenience and pleasure!)

We are on schedule with or HD production company shooting interviews with a wide variety of interesting people who are providing excellent insights into the Iowa caucuses.

One of our experts is Raluca Cozma of the Greenlee School of Journalism and Communication at Iowa State University. (Shown with Prof Schmidt in this picture)

She is an expert in the field of political communication and offers some very exciting insights into the process of Presidential candidate selection.

Her easily understandable but startling research findings will be of special significance for people in the communications media enrolled in the class.

Our excellent professional video team has been hard at work. we are using three HD cameras and two professional videographers and the full compliment of lighting and other equipment. The video interviews will be first class in content but also production value. The team is with B & G Productions (See picture Below)

We also conducted several other interviews which we will be sharing with you soon.

The project has also started rolling out an elaborate and very professional marketing initiative. This is designed to reach a large audience of people who would be interested in this Iowa Presidential caucuses class.

We have already heard from journalists, from professionals in the political consulting field, activist citizens from both major parties, and college students.

Many of the college students are excited about earning a certificate at the end of the MOOC and being able to include this innovative class on their résumé.

 One of the surprises in designing and now developing this MOOC is the attention to detail that is necessary to "get it 100% right." In the next picture Steffen Schmidt is getting some "remodeling" of the face and University of Northern Iowa Professor Chris Larimer, who was interviewed in this shoot at the Political Science department at UNI, is next in line for some video makeup.

We are VERY excited to share with you that Governor Terry Branstad has agreed to an interview and we will be picking his brain for the substantial insights of the longest serving governor (six terms) and a "two century" governor (he is serving now and served in the last century.)

Stay tuned for more to come.

In the meantime reserve your place for the FREE online class which will launch in September by going to our web site at:

The Iowa Straw Poll Rocks!

Iowa Caucuses and Straw Poll as relevant as ever
by Steffen Schmidt
CityView, Des Moines, 2/18/2015

Every four years, the contrarians come out of the woodwork trashing the Iowa Presidential Caucuses and the Ames Straw Poll.

Retired Drake journalism school professor Herb Strentz had his opportunity at this Whack-a-Mole in Cityview. In “Adieu to the relevance” of the caucuses and poll, he avers that Congressman Steve King’s Freedom Summit is proof of the irrelevance of Iowa. He quotes the left-wing wag Scott Galindez, featured in Anarchist publications such as The Rag Blog, who wrote that Iowans are “God-fearing, pig-castrating, gun toting whackos.”

First of all, Professor Strentz may have missed the fact that there is no such a thing as “Iowans.” There are Independent-No-Party voters, there are lots of Democrats (Iowa is probably still purple), there are seriously lefty Bernie Sanders Democrats, there are Libertarian-Rand Paul Republican Iowans, and there are even lots of moderate Republicans or Mitt Romney would not have tied for first place in the last Iowa caucuses. Iowa is much more diverse than the fool out of town critics can ever imagine.

By the way, in Iowa we have members of the Evangelical Lutheran Church, Lutheran Church–Missouri Synod, Wisconsin Evangelical Lutheran Synod, and, for all I know, other diverse branches of the Lutheran faith. Now that’s diversity!

Second, the Iowa caucuses are a terrific testing ground for candidates. They can hone their skills, meet lots of self-confident people at cafés, community centers, the Iowa State Fair, and people’s homes, people who will straight out ask hard questions with no intermediaries. And poor candidates like Rick Santorum can beat a rich businessman like Mitt Romney by burning up shoe leather and going to 99 counties shaking hands and selling himself.

Third, Strentz misses the point completely that Iowa allows us and the massive media horde that come here to assess the character and communications style and skills of contenders. Anyone watching Steve King’s Summit from “gavel-to-gavel” could not help but see the differences between Gov. Scott Walker and Ted Cruz, Carly Fiorina and Sara Palin.

Fourth, the Ames Straw Poll is a terrific, fun political festival. The media loves it. Those attending the event (including me) love it. The Iowa Republican Party loves it since it raises a ton of money. Ames and Story County love it because these fool politicians leave a big chunk of money with us. It’s called a Republican stimulus package for us.

Fifth, Joni Ernst WON the Senate race. No matter how much the left dislikes her, the Democrats blew that race and almost every other race in 2014. That’s how elections work, Professor. The majority works hard, turns out large numbers and wins elections. I recommend that the Democrats carefully study Joni’s campaign. They will learn how to win elections.

And, of course, the East Coast dandies who write about the Iowa caucuses have their own axe to grind, and their own “groupies” to satisfy.

I, for one, am a huge fan of the Iowa Caucuses and the Straw Poll. They create political excitement. They show what highly motivated voters are as opposed to the low information and low intensity voters who turn out for primaries.

Let the candidates roll in!

Join me this September for a fun, online, FREE class on the Iowa Caucuses (and Straw Poll)!

Reserve your place here:

Steffen Schmidt is originator and co-author of the largest selling American government college textbook and Professor of Political Science at Iowa State University. His Iowa Caucuses online course launches in September.

Monday, February 16, 2015

Scott Walker Disappoints.

When Gov Scott Walker left Iowa after Congressman Steve King's Freedom Summit he looked like a winner.

Then he went to London.

Wassup with the "London Pilgrimage?'

Chris Christie went and got mostly bad press when he punked on measles vaccination saying it was up to parents, then waffling again and saying kids should be vaccinated. Then he "Went Christie" which is the expression we use when he loses it in front of media. When a reporter tried a follow up question he told the journalist to basically shut up and stop asking questions.

Now Scott Walker goes to London for a "trade mission."  The headlines from that ill fated journey were "Gov. Scott Walker 'Punts' on Foreign Policy, Evolution Questions in London." At the policy institute Chatham House,he repeatedly refused to answer foreign policy questions.

He was asked about Ukraine and ISIS and his answer basically was "I just don’t think you talk about foreign policy when you’re on foreign soil.”

When asked about evolution he basically sided with creationists "Both science & my faith dictate my belief that we are created by God."

It's still early and both Christie and Scott said the right thing for conservative Republican base voters. So maybe their "stumble" will have no consequences going forward. However, every little bump in the road can turn off independent ("No-Party") voters such as the New Hampsherites who can vote in the "open primary" election there.

Some years ago Mitt Romney also did a London pilgrimage and insulted London by saying he was not sure if they could handle the Olympics because of security issues. London Mayor Boris Johnson raked Romney across the coals. It was another bad London "karma" moment. 

We are still investigating why these politicians think they need to go to London. We now refer to it as the "London Curse."

I would suggest changing cities. Dublin or Berlin would be nice.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Schmidt on Scott Walker

Steffen Schmidt, a political science professor at Iowa State University and expert on the Iowa caucuses, said tying Wisconsin with the phrase "free and prosperous" could be an "amazing" campaign slogan for a national race.

Schmidt said Walker's emphasis on lean government, school reform and rejection of Common Core academic standards check some "must-do" boxes for any Republicans hoping to form a favorable impression with conservatives around the country."

"Schmidt agreed that Walker's salute to the military — proclaiming that "red, white and blue runs even deeper" than green and gold, the Packers' colors — and his condemnation of the terror attacks sounded presidential.
"He is well positioned now for Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and South Carolina if he decides to fully throw his hat in the ring for 2016," Schmidt said.

"Gov. Walker is on my list of the five strongest contenders for 2016," said Steffen Schmidt, a longtime professor of political science at Iowa State University and expert on the Iowa caucuses."

The Iowa caucuses are tentatively scheduled for Feb. 1, 2016. More than one year out, Schmidt predicts Walker will shine in the Hawkeye State.
Walker has made a few visits to Iowa over the last several years, giving speeches at Republican fundraisers and other events. He lived in the northeastern part of the state for seven years as a child. And there's already an website up and running.
"He should do well in the Iowa caucuses, coming in first, second or third, which is where candidates need to place to have a chance getting the nomination," Schmidt said.
 (Picture from

Sunday, February 08, 2015

Iowa Political Caucuses: Reporters, Politicians, and Lies

Iowa Political Caucuses: Reporters, Politicians, and Lies: --> Reporter Brian Williams is temporarily stepping away from the "NBC Nightly News” because he somehow “misremembered” a...

Reporters, Politicians, and Lies


Reporter Brian Williams is temporarily stepping away from the "NBC Nightly News” because he somehow “misremembered” an incident in a helicopter that came under fire while he was on assignment in Iraq in 2003. The evidence now shows that was not the case. Williams apologized.

Williams also he said bodies were floating past his hotel in New Orleans during Katrina in 2006 but there was very little flooding in the French Quarter where he was staying.
Then, “NBC News anchor Brian Williams told differing stories about a 1994 interview he conducted with Nelson Mandela just after his election to the presidency of South Africa. During an event at The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation on Feb. 8, 2008, an audience member asked Williams to name the highlights of his career. “I was the first person to walk into the hotel room of Nelson Mandela the morning he woke up and learned he’d been elected president,” said Williams.” 

Apparently there were lots of discrepancies and “illusions” in this claim. 

Hillary Clinton also lied. 

Do you remember the story about Hillary Clinton? 

“On March 25, 2008, Hillary Clinton said that she and her daughter, Chelsea, were shot at in Bosnia in 1996. After the claims were disputed, Clinton said she has a “different memory” of the events that occurred.” 

You thought Benghazi was going to be a problem! This is going to be a BIG problem for Clinton.
And people say the Iowa Caucuses, First in the Nation, thin out the field of Presidential contenders!

Not so. Presidential wannabes weed themselves out by lying, making up stuff, and having “oops!’ moments.

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie had at least one “oops” moment.

This week on a trip to England to boost his foreign policy credentials he was felled by the measles. When asked about the US measles outbreak and vaccinations the “Big Guy” (that’s not my term I saw it in numerous media reports) decided to waffle and say that there should be parental choice. When reporters pressed him he told them to basically shut up and he was not taking any more questions.

Then the New York Times ran a damning article about Christie and his adventures flying in private airplanes to venues, being feted by the King of Jordan, champagne in the desert and staying at an incredibly expensive hotel or as they said “The rooms in luxurious Kempinski hotels had cost about $30,000.”

Add all of this and then there was Rand Paul’s statement that vaccines should be a family choice and you can see why I am SO excited about the 2016 Iowa Caucuses!

I want to personally invite you as an friend to join my free Iowa Presidential Caucuses Internet class starting in September. Reserve a space. No obligation, at

Saturday, February 07, 2015

Chris Christie's worst week as Presidential contender.

When you run for President or are thinking about running everything becomes an issue.

* In the News: Gov. Chris Christie's (R) trips on a plane owned by Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones.
* More stories about many lavish trips on multiple private planes paid for by others.

* "a "trade mission" to Israel in 2012 on a private plane paid for by billionaire casino owner Sheldon Adelson on which Christie reportedly had his "own bedroom." (PS. "At the time, Adelson was lobbying [the state of New Jersey] on gambling legislation."
* He went on a trip to Jordan "... that was paid for by that country's monarch, King Abdullah. It included two parties at the king's home, a "champagne reception" in the desert, and rooms "in luxurious Kempinski hotels had cost about $30,000."

Then there was a measles outbreak in the United States. Christie was in London, on a trade mission. He was asked about vaccinations.

Bloomberg View reported that "He said his four kids were vaccinated, but that "that parents need to have some measure of choice in things as well. So that’s the balance that the government has to decide." That laissez-faire approach plays well with the keep your hands off my guns, my textbooks and my kids constituency he may need for the Iowa caucuses, as well as some New Age liberals he'll never get, but not necessarily with the 99 percent of us who thought the disease had been eradicated in the U.S. Christie’s office was soon out with a correction, saying there was “no question kids should be vaccinated.”"

I asked some of my friends if Iowa Republicans really do not believe in mandated vaccination and discovered that most think that's just bull.

When reporters tried to ask Christie some more questions he snarked back at them "... what part of no questions don’t you understand?!”

So now all of a sudden vaccinations have become a huge political issue. The GOP contenders are dividing up with Marco Rubio and Jeb Bush in favor of vaccination, Rand Paul coming out for parental rights and no government mandate, and some others running away fast from the issue and hiding. Of course, Michelle Bachman believes that vaccinations cause mental retardation but she's not running for President in 2016.

The 2016 caucuses are already providing the ammunition for weeding out potential contenders.

More at:

Thursday, February 05, 2015

Republican Presidential Wannabes MUST do well in Blue states

Reprinted from the Ames, Iowa Tribune

The Iowa caucuses on February 1 will launch one to three Republican contenders into the limelight. Iowa is an interesting state because in fact caucus voters I both parties can divide along several preferences.

Mitt Romney and Rick Santorum won the Republican caucuses in 2012 representing the faith based conservatives and the country club establishment. Keep that in mind as you assess the 2016 contenders.

Let’s make it clear. Iowa is VERY important because it’s first and has a great record of pointing to the potential nominee. BUT, how does a candidate actually get nominated?

They normally need to collect delegates in many states before reaching the magic number to get the nomination at the Democratic National Convention. How does that work?

Numbers cruncher Nate Cohn has looked at where the delegates are harvested and found that a Republican contender actually MUST do very well in blue (Democrat) states. In his latest column he writes in the New York Times that
“The blue-state Republicans make it far harder for a very conservative candidate to win the party’s nomination than the party’s reputation suggests. They also give a candidate who might seem somewhat out of touch with today’s Republican Party, like Jeb Bush, a larger base of potential support than is commonly thought.”

His data is compelling and surprising.
“…  blue-state Republicans still possess the delegates, voters and resources to decide the nomination. In 2012, there were more Romney voters in California than in Texas, and in Chicago’s Cook County than in West Virginia. Mr. Romney won three times as many voters in overwhelmingly Democratic New York City than in Republican-leaning Alaska.”

As we assess the huge field of presumed GOP candidates it is important to consider these metrics. Perhaps the most surprising piece of information coming from Cohn is the fact that “… 59 percent of Romney voters in the Republican primaries lived in the states carried by President Obama.”

That doesn’t necessarily mean that Iowa’s most conservative Republicans will fold and go for a moderate again in 2016. Remember that the mantra of the GOP is that the party lost two important elections by nominating John McCain and Mitt Romney who were deemed to be too moderate. The strategy for the next presidential contest seems to be to nominate a “true” conservative not a RINO, a Republican in Name Only. Such a candidate it is assumed, would excite the dormant “silent majority” of Americans who don’t bother to vote and who are considered to be more conservative than what the Republicans as well as Democrats have offered up for the White House. We saw that great enthusiasm for conservatives and the disdain for moderates such as Mitt Romney and Jeb Bush at Congressman King’s Freedom Forum in Des Moines. 

However the very bluest of blue states – think states like Vermont, California, Massachusetts – actually account for 4 in 10 voters in Republican primaries. In 2008 and 2012 John McCain and Mitt Romney won every single blue-state primary according to Nate Cohn. That is a substantial mountain to overcome by what I call the “hard conservatives.” 

In 2016 the Republican candidate who can earn the support of the hard-core conservative caucus voters but also win the vote of blue-state Republicans will win the nomination, and, many analyses suggest also has an excellent chance of winning the general election.

Tuesday, February 03, 2015

Iowa Political Caucuses: The Caucuses MOOC class is building!

Iowa Political Caucuses: The Caucuses MOOC class is building!: In September we will launch the Iowa caucuses Massive Open Online Class (MOOC) free and 100% on the Internet. Today we did a FABULOUS inte...

The Caucuses MOOC class is building!

In September we will launch the Iowa caucuses Massive Open Online Class (MOOC) free and 100% on the Internet.

Today we did a FABULOUS interview with my colleague David Andersen.See picture below in the Political Science department research library. We talked extensively about the role of media in the Presidential selection process. Prof Andersen argues that the old and new (social) media play a huge and important role in the ability of candidates to sell themselves to Iowa caucus voters. How doe the new media (Twitter, Facebook, YouTube, Pinterest, Linkedin, Mashable, Tumblr, StumbleUpon, Digg, Blogger, Reddit, Foursquare, Instagram, WhatsApp, Skype, and many others.
Andersen and Schmidt
Andersen also made an important analysis of the differences between the Iowa Caucuses and caucuses in other states which reveals new insights into the clash between and among candidates as they cruise across the United States trying to harvest delegates.

He also provides very insightful perspectives on the positive functions of the Iowa caucuses when compared to the role of primaries.

There is much more in this interview and we will share that with you in the MOOC.

Stay tuned for more exciting announcements from the Iowa Presidential Caucuses MOOC Central Headquarters in Ross Hall at Iowa State University.   Sign in here for updates and reserve your place in the MOOC.