A Last Word on the Beer Summit
Former Bush and McCain strategist Mark McKinnon says Obama’s smart calculation recalls a surprising focus group finding from 2000: Voters just want to have a beer with their president.
One final short word on the beer summit.
I have nothing to add about the incident in Boston or the choreography of the event at the White House. I think all that can be said has been said. But a thought about the power of beer in American politics:
In the 2000 presidential campaign, we stumbled upon an interesting research finding that gave us a ray of hope when every other indicator seemed to suggest Al Gore would win. We conducted a series of focus groups among key voters and we asked all the usual questions you might expect. Who had the right experience, who was right on the issues, who was best on the economy, foreign policy, etc.
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And on many of the questions, Gore won. But toward the end of the groups, we slipped in the following question: “OK, disregard everything else. If it were the end of a very hot day, with whom you rather sit down and share a cold beer: Al Gore or George W. Bush?”
Bush won hands down, almost unanimously in all the groups.
Now, I’m not suggesting anyone read too much into this finding, and we didn’t at the time. But, it did suggest one thing I think is true about politics and presidents. When people cast a vote for president, they rarely vote on single issues, as they do in many other elections for which they cast ballots. They look at an entire constellation of issues and attributes and at the end of the day when they finally vote, it fundamentally comes down to someone they like and trust. Voters are electing someone to head the American family for four or eight years. So, they want someone they’d expect to have around the living room a lot. Someone, in short, they’d want to sit down with and have a beer.
So, beyond all the hysterics of the beer summit was a pretty smart calculation on the part of Barack Obama and his team. Get Obama away from the podium and behind a frozen mug. Because if nothing else, many Americans got a quick glimpse into a picture they’d like to imagine themselves: knockin’ down a cold brew with a regular guy who just happens to be president of the United States.
When it comes to American politics and convincing voters you are one of them, it’s hard to go wrong with beer.
As vice chairman of Public Strategies and president of Maverick Media, Mark McKinnon has helped meet strategic challenges for candidates, causes, and individuals, including George W. Bush, John McCain, Governor Ann Richards, Charlie Wilson, Lance Armstrong, and Bono. McKinnon is co-chair of Arts & Labs, a collaboration between technology and creative communities that have embraced today’s rich Internet environment to deliver innovative and creative digital products to consumers.