Why Democrats’ Impeachment Messaging Isn’t Working

Fournier notes that the focus should be on the independent and undecided voters. “You don’t have to change a lot of minds; only a few.”

Articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump are now in front of the full U.S. House, which is expected to vote on those articles this week.

Since the news about the call to Ukraine surfaced, polling has shown that more Americans support impeachment than oppose it. But after weeks of hearings, Democrats still have not been able to move the needle much further in support of impeachment. In fact, FiveThirtyEight.com’s tracker shows that number has slipped slightly. Why is that?

Detroit Today’s Stephen Henderson digs into this quandary with Ron Fournier, president of the Truscott Rossman PR firm, former publisher of Crain’s Detroit Business and former Associated Press Washington bureau chief. Fournier has been paying a lot of attention in recent weeks to the impeachment proceedings and weighs in on what he views as “a massive missed opportunity” by the Democrats.

“Target the case on those few thousand people. You don’t have to change a lot of minds, only a few.” – Ron Fournier

Jake Neher/WDET
Jake Neher/WDET

Fournier, who covered the Clinton impeachment during his tenure as the Associate Press White House reporter, notes that the country is much more divided than it was in the 1990s and during the Nixon administration as well. He says the Democrats are going about this all wrong.

“The goal for the Democrats should be about getting [Trump] beat in November. So from the very beginning that should’ve been the target,” says Fournier. 

“Why not a multi-million dollar advertising campaign that starts with targeted digital ads following people around the internet?” asks Fournier, who adds that the Democrats should leverage media in a modern way, “If every night on prime time there was a ‘crime of the day’ that looked at what he did and why it’s harmful to all of us, and back that up with an aggressive and expensive social media campaign.”

Fournier believes this tactic could be a slam dunk, but the Democrats have “dropped it and they’re still acting like it’s 1974.” He adds that “it’s not the tone that’s killing them, it’s the lack of political and strategic communication savvy.”

Henderson and Fournier also talk about the margin of people who would need to change their minds about the impeachment to effect change in the 2020 election.

“There’s no way even with the perfect media campaign in this environment that you could get 70 to 75 percent but were not going to do that because we know how polarized the electorate is, the goal is to get four or five percent of the swing and independent voters in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania. Target the case on those few thousand people; where they live and where they work, it’s not that difficult. You don’t have to change a lot of minds, only a few,” says Fournier. 

Click on the player above to hear the Ron Fournier talk about the Democrats impeachment messaging strategy.


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