The battle to win the early primary states in Iowa and New Hampshire is now a real contest among the top three democratic contenders, Senator Hillary Clinton, Senator Barrack Obama and former Senator John Edwards. Each of these candidates has now exceeded $2 million in spending on cable TV – targeting specific voters in Iowa and New Hampshire.
In Iowa alone, the top three democratic contenders have placed political spots on over a dozen cable channel networks, micro-targeting potential voters with unique TV viewing habits. Campaigns are sending special messages to voters whose viewing habits reflect the general trend of the country, as viewers move away from broadcast news and migrate to cable TV and the Internet for political news and entertainment. According to Nielsen Media Research and Ratings, in 2002 Cable TV began to surpass Broadcast, 51% – 49%, four years later Cable TV increased it share of viewers to 58% – 46%.
Iowa has become a test bed of micro-targeting voters on Cable TV. Democratic Presidential Campaigns are targeting voters who consistently watch programs such as The Situation Room, Larry King Live and Anderson Cooper 360 on CNN; Hardball with Chris Matthews and Countdown with Keith Olbermann on MSNBC; CNN Headline News; Top Chef on Bravo; The Daily Show and the Colbert Report on Comedy Central; Law & Order and Monk on USA; NCAA College Sports and Sports Center on ESPN; Without a Trace on TNT; Design to Sell on HGTV; 106 & Park on BET; Real World on MTV and Mad Money on CNBC.
If there’s no clear front-runner in the Democratic Party race for the nomination at the end of the early contests in January, then February 5th, when the nation will see 21 states hold primaries or caucuses, will conceivably thrust forward a favorite candidate sealing the nomination. There are between 241 and 400 delegates that are up for grabs in the California Primary on February 5th. California will have the biggest impact on which candidate can win the nomination. The candidate that wins a majority of votes in each of the state’s 53 congressional districts will benefit. Each district has no less than 4 or no more than 6 delegates to allocate to the top vote getters as a percentage of their total vote in that district.
California’s dynamic voter diversity and its geographical political leanings will serve as another test-bed for cable micro-targeting voters and supporters. Presidential Campaigns and Independent Expenditure Committee’s (527’s) will complement their communication efforts integrating direct mail, field canvass; internet organizing and general broadcast TV with specific messages to democratic primary voters using cable micro-targeting capabilities.
According to an extensive Scarborough Research Survey from February 2006 thru January 2007 measuring the viewing habits of adults in California, broadcast news is no longer the dominant source of political news for voters to watch. Less than 28 percent of adults who always vote in Statewide and Presidential elections watched local late news in the San Diego, Los Angeles, Fresno, Sacramento and San Francisco major media markets.
To underscore the misconception that tabloid style news product has become more popular than traditional news, Bob Long, News Director at NBC in Los Angeles said, “It’s a myth, that tabloid sells more….Whether you’re in Peoria or Los Angeles, the interest in celebrity news is about the same – 8%.”
The Voter and Ballot Information Guide from the California Secretary of State Office will begin to arrive in voters’ mailboxes during the week of January 7th. Permanent absentee voters can begin to cast their votes as soon as the middle of month of January. As of March 2004, there are over 667,599 permanent absentee voters encompassing democratic leaning counties of northern California. They include: Alameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Mendocino, Monterey, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Solano, and Sonoma. (Los Angeles County only has 10% of the voters registered to vote as permanent absentee)
Communicating early and often will be key for a presidential candidate to lock in a healthy base of voter support in the upcoming California presidential primary.
Who will release the trigger first remains to be seen. But who ever it is and if they systematically target voters and integrate their media communications online, on the air and on demand – will win!
Sam Rodriguez is President of KSR Strategy Group and Senior Political Advisor to National Cable Communications Inc.,(NCC). He is a former Political Director for the California Democratic Party, and was Washington State Director for Kerry for President Campaign. Sam has over 20 years of political and governmental experience at the national, state and local levels. He can be reached at Srodriguez@ksrstrategygroup.com