Episode 97, with guests Jim Margolis and Ron Klain

Jim Margolis and Ron Klain are our guests this week.
Show produced by Katherine Caperton.
Original Air Date: April 13, 2013 on SiriusXM “POTUS” Channel 124.
PoliOptics airs regularly on POTUS on Saturdays at 6 am, 12 noon and 6 pm.
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Show also available for download on Apple iTunes by clicking here

Both Barack Obama and Mitt Romney spent hundreds of millions of dollars on television advertising in 2012, both buttressed by hundreds of millions more in independent expenditure by outside organizations. The effort by the Obama camp, orchestrated by our first guest, Jim Margolis, was both creative and strategic, and we delved into both areas in our conversation with Jim.

Jim Margolis in the studio

The truth is, a lot of it was wasted. Ads were created, and time bought, to show ads to people who were either 1) totally committed to Obama or 2) totally committed to Romney. They would have benefited more from seeing commercials for Jeep or Frosted Flakes, products they could be persuaded to buy through finely crafted script, gauzy images, swelling soundtrack and hypnotic narration.

It’s unlikely that candidates in 2016 will waste so much money, as Margolis tells us on this episode of PoliOptics. Those Samsung or Cisco-manufactured boxes that sit underneath the flatscreens in our living rooms — they’re watching you as you watch the Brian Williams. They’re recording every move of your clicker and they know you’re fast-fowarding through the pharmaceutical ads. The boxes tell data aggregators like Rentrac that you’re a late-night Jimmy Fallon watcher or a midday Steve Harvey watcher. Combine that behavioral insight with door-to-door fieldwork and other forms of political intelligence, you’ll signal to future campaigns all the data they need to determine whether or not 1) you’re persuadable, 2) watch TV in cost-efficient time blocks and 3) are worth spending money on.

By the time the next presidential campaign rolls around, that Samsung box also be ready to act on your behavior, serving up targeted ads specific to you, the individual viewer. At the same moment that your dyed-in-the-wood GOP neighbor will get an ad for Ford Trucks and your bleeding-heart liberal neighbor gets an ad for puppy food you, the undecided voter, will be served up spot after spot of packaged political persuasion. Remember this word — addressability. Just as Narwal beat Orca in 2012, the campaign that better masters addressability in 2016 may emerge as the master of its domain.

As you’re pondering all that, take one last look at one of the most persuasive spots of the 2012 cycle, Mitt Romney’s dulcet tones singing “America, The Beautiful.”


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On Sunday, April 14, the second season of VEEP premieres on HBO with Julia Louis-Dreyfuss as Vice President Selina Meyer and Anna Chlumsky as her hapless chief of staff Amy Brookheimer.


In real life, over the past 20 years, the Vice President has played a pivotal role in American history and his chief of staff — Roy Neel, Ron Klain, Charles Burson, Scooter Libby, David Addington, Ron Klain (again) and Bruce Reed — have been anything but hapless.

Klain with Obama

Klain, our other guest on this episode, is himself a central character in modern political history. Coming out of Harvard Law, he was a clerk to Associate Supreme Court Justice Byron White, Chief Counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee during Clarence Thomas’s confirmation hearings and a Justice Department official during the early Clinton years before joining Al Gore’s staff as its chief. When Florida’s recount became the pivotal political battleground in November and December of 2000, Klain was at Ground Zero in Tallahassee, earning a portrayal by Kevin Spacey in the Danny Strong-written RECOUNT for HBO. During the Bush years, mostly in private law practice, he assisted John Kerry in his 2004 campaign and Barack Obama in his 2008 effort. When Obama and Biden took over the White House in 2009, Klain returned to his old job as the Vice President’s Chief of Staff. Then, after Obama had cycled through Rahm Emanuel, Bill Daley and Jack Lew, both Klain and Denis McDonough made up the short list for the corner office in the West Wing.

It’s a pretty good bet that Ron Klain, now just 51 with all that history behind him, will return to the West Wing in high office in another chapter in his career.

But what was most interesting in our conversation with Ron might not have been the Washington-centric history that started with Anita Hill.

This week marked the 45 anniversary of the death of Martin Luther King. Among other notes of this milestone, this amazing online experience, courtesy of Marc Perrusquia of the Memphis Commercial Appeal, brings us minute-by-minute through the final days of his life. In Indianapolis, fell on the shoulders of the presidential candidate Robert F. Kennedy to share the untimely news of King’s passing with a shocked rally audience. For Klain, then a seven-year-old boy growing up in the Hoosier state, the memory is particularly poignant.As you listen to this week’s episode of PoliOptics, take a trip back in time.[youtube]j6mxL2cqxrA[/youtube]

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