Security message wins US debate

17 December 2015

The big issue in yesterday’s debate in the race to become the Republican nominee for President was security. Most of the candidates clearly see this as the defining issue in who will win the race and subsequently the presidency.

Donald Trump has focused on this for some time, culminating in his plan to ban Muslims entering Amercia. Yesterday most other candidates had a security focus, sometimes accusing their competitors of being weak on the issue. For example, Ted Cruz accused Marco Rubio of supporting Hilary Clinton and Barrack Obama in undermining Middle East governments, which helped terrorists.

The candidates will be looking back to the 2004 Election where George W Bush won a second term. In a nutshell, his message was, “I’ll keep you safe,” while John Kerry’s was, “We need change in Washington.”

Bush won comfortably because people were more interested in staying safe than they were in the need for change. Interestingly, Obama won on the change message at the following Election. At that point in 2012, 911 wasn’t such a recent memory.

While political parties usually campaign on about three distinct messages, there is usually an overriding one. In New Zealand, the National Party usually focus on economic management, while NZ First and the Greens are well known for their focus.

However, one problem Labour has at the moment is lack of a clear overriding message. It used to be focused on the rights of the worker. That’s why it was called the Labour Party. But now it doesn’t seem so focused and it hasn’t since Rogernomics. Perhaps they will use “the need for change”. Security is unlikely to be a major message here, unless there is some terrorist incident in the next two years.

For more on my media training or crisis communication, contact or 029 200 8555.

Filed under Media Training

Written by

Pete is a leading New Zealand media trainer and regular blogger for his company, Media Training NZ . He has helped leaders from all sectors of society communicate with the media and other stakeholders. Pete is a former daily newspaper reporter and press secretary in the New Zealand government. From these roles, he understands the media process from both sides of the camera.

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