The message of the campaign contains the ideas that the candidate wants to share with the voters. The message often consists of several talking points about policy issues. The points summarize the main ideas of the campaign and are repeated frequently in order to create a lasting impression with the voters. In many elections, the opposition party will try to get the candidate “off message” by bringing up policy or personal questions that are not related to the talking points. Most campaigns prefer to keep the message broad in order to attract the most potential voters. A message that is too narrow can alienate voters or slow the candidate down with explaining details. For example, in the election of 2008 John McCain originally used a message that focused on his patriotism and political experience: “Country First”; later the message was changed to shift attention to his role as “The Original Maverick” within the political establishment. Barack Obama ran on a consistent, simple message of “change” throughout his campaign. If the message is crafted carefully, it will assure the candidate a victory at the polls. For a winning candidate, the message is refined and then becomes his or her political agenda in office.
The habit of modern Western media outlets (especially radio and television) of taking short excerpts from speeches has resulted in the creation of the term “soundbite”. Examples might include:
- “John Doe is a businessman, not a politician. His background in finance means he can bring fiscal discipline to state government.”
- “As our society faces a rapid upswing in violent crime and an ever worsening education system, we need leaders who will keep our streets safe and restore accountability to our schools. John Doe is that leader.”
- “Over the past four years, John Doe has missed over fifty City Council meetings. How can you lead if you don’t show up? Jane Doe won’t turn a blind eye to the government.”