Ron Paul Plays to the Audience
First rule of communicating: know your audience. Second, more difficult rule: know your opponent’s audience.
At the debate last Thursday, three candidates had narrowed their targets: Mitt Romney aimed at Florida’s Newt Gingrich supporters, and vice versa for Gingrich. As those two traded attacks, Rick Santorum’s above-the-fray (a.k.a. ass-kissing) strategy revealed his intended audience: either one of the two likely GOP nominees who might select him to run as vice president.
This left Ron Paul free to unleash a broad-based humor offensive, not predicated on the other candidates but aimed at the many Republicans watching the debate. In other words, the people watching Fox News. Watch as Paul skillfully uses humor to demarginalize his candidacy and de-crankify his persona.
The Phases of the Gingrich: From Full Moon to Waning Crescent
After South Carolina, Newt’s ego was so big it had its own gravitational field.
During stump speeches, bits of Sheldon Adelson’s cash could be seen orbiting the candidate. But if jokes are good indicators of a candidate’s state of mind, the first sign that Newt’s star might be falling came during his now-famous NASA speech:
When it comes to making fun of government bureaucracies, some Republicans have easily triggered laugh reflexes. So a joke like this can still get a laugh, even when it’s as empty as the promise of second-term moon colonization.
With Romney exceeding expectations at the debate (and with a now double-digit lead in Florida), Newt’s strategy became clearer: act as though you’re shooting for the moon, even as you’re crashing back down to earth.
Mitt Neuters Newt
The Republican quest for the anti-Romney finally produced Newt. But now, behold, the anti-anti-Romney. The New Mitt, who has discarded his frontrunner Too-Bain-to-Deign strategy to cross swords more eagerly with his opponents.
Would the Old Mitt Romney spike the ball with a taunting joke like this?
Clearly their recent steel cage match has taught Romney something about becoming a better candidate. Newt will never be Romney’s VP, but maybe he could write nasty anti-Obama jokes for his campaign this fall. (Not as a partisan bomb thrower, but as a historian.)
Mark Katz is the founder and principal of the Soundbite Institute, a creative think tank that specializes in on-message humor. At the Tactical Humorist, Katz breaks down the laughs in the 2012 presidential campaign.
When Rick Santorum thumbed his nose at Obama’s drive for higher education, he opened the floodgates for criticism. Watch as Jon Stewart schools him on the actual meaning of a ‘snob.’