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: Politics in Australia

Gerry Clinchy
09-10-2013, 10:04 AM

As I read this analysis of the recent Australian elections, it occurred to me that Romney tried to run a campaign like this in 2012 ... but it didn't work out too well. Perhaps it was because Romney really didn't have the national stature to be a "known quantity" for the electorate (the way Abbott was in his election)?

Abbott had been in national politics for almost 20 years. He had held several senior ministerial jobs, in which he had performed well. And though he held some opinions that were unpopular or “controversial,” he neither frightened people with them nor backed nervously away from them. His formula for dealing with such matters (I paraphrase) went like this: “Am I worried about divorce and family breakdown? Yes. Will I try to outlaw them? No.” Voters approved of his authenticity and reasonableness even whey they disagreed with him.

The four strategists concluded that Labour and the media would be unable to make their charges of extremism stick unless Abbott gave them the ammunition. The watchword of the Liberal campaign should therefore be “steady.” Abbott should present a strong reasoned case for his main policies and mount a reasoned but not angry critique of Labour’s failures. He could go negative on Labour policies — polls showed that his attacks on Labour’s carbon tax were popular — but not against Labour personalities. Above all, he should largely ignore the attacks leveled against him by the government and the media. Since these attacks reflected Labour’s defective analysis of who Abbott was and what he stood for, the voters would be less and less influenced by them. They knew Abbott — an opposition leader gets about — and he simply didn’t fit the caricature. Some of the more sneeringly snobbish attacks would probably drive traditional Labour voters into Abbott’s waiting arms.