Messaging 101 – Learn from the master Lee Atwater

Many modern-day political followers would proclaim that no modern-era President or politician was ever as hated as George W Bush.

Against the backdrop of visible hate they might just be right.

However, against the ideology of defining hate level by the strength of the hater, more people still would attach the “most hated” label to Karl Rove.

Each contingent might just be right; it is, quite simply and historically, too early to tell.

However, I would argue the most hated, and subsequently most influential, man is actually the person who gave rise to both Karl Rove and George W Bush, Lee Atwater.

Lee Atwater was the mentor for Karl Rove, and subsequently under his tutelage “The architect” was born. Were it not for the messaging system of Karl Rove, learned at the knee of the master Atwater, few would doubt the 2004 electoral victory of Dubya.

But what made Lee Atwater so darned good is exactly what is needed right now.    It was Atwater who helped bring Ronald Reagan to victory against Jimmy Carter.   A look at Atwater’s messaging style could seriously benefit today’s patriots.

Atwater was the master of political “absorption” and pushing back.  Lee possessed an uncany capability to script a message of advocacy for his candidate simultaneously with the disparagement of his opponent.   But, he only focused on the advocacy part as the optic.  The “disparagement” was more of a “distinction” of difference.

The negative trait of the opponent was embedded in the positive traits of the advocated candidate.

Here is an example:   Consider Michigan House District-01, Bart Stupak’s old district, currently held by Dr. Dan Benishek.  In the 2010 race Dr. Dan was able to script his platform around the complicit weakness of his opponent by pointing out the contrast defined by his own positives.

Instead of saying Bart Stupak “sold out” his vote to Obamacare, and calling out Stupak’s lack of character, Dr. Dan was able to narrate a message of “vote for me – A man of true principle – I will never sell out“.   Inherent in this message/claim is the subtle message of untrue principle of the opponent, which is, or more accurately, ‘was’, factually based.  (*It is important to note that Atwaters’ system was contingent on TRUTH)

The current political fighters could learn a lot from this type of messaging;  and the Tea Party Patriots need to become more familiar and well versed with it as a tool for pushing back.

Consider the recent statement/joke by Mitt Romney, again -and coincidently- in Michigan, about his hometown roots:

“I love being home in this place where Ann and I were raised,” Romney told the crowd, “where both of us were born. Ann was born in Henry Ford Hospital, I was born in Harper Hospital. No one has ever asked to see my birth certificate. They know that this is the place that we were born and raised.”

It was close to the Atwater message system, but just missed the bullseye.

The media and punditry went ballistic over this comment from Romney and within thirty-minutes those few words received more media attention (and phony outrage) than the record number of American casualties currently mounting in Afghanistan; or the recent report about the corruption released in the Fast and Furious investigation.

Now if they want to take it to the next level, Team Romney needs to shape such a comment based on the Atwater model.   Consider if Romney had said it this way:

“I love being home in this place where Ann and I were raised, where both of us were born. Ann was born in Henry Ford Hospital, I was born in Harper Hospital.  Michiganders know this is the place where we were born and raised, and neither of us have ever told, or approved, a publicist to claim we were from anywhere else, let alone another country.”

See the difference?

A similar sentiment, but Oh Shit does it place the media in a serious quandary.

Firstly, the media would have wanted to frame the comment as “birtherism”; but secondly, and in addition, they would need to reflect/share the storyline of “intent”.

Yesterday we shared how Chris Matthews tried feebly to script Romney as a birther whackjob by questioning his “intent”.

Consider the difference if “intent” was actually the best part of the conversation instead of the tool for diminishing.

Within that “intent” discussion the media would need to cover the factual story of Barack Obama claiming in his author bio his nationality being Kenyan.

Remember this was what Obama himself provided to his literary agent in 1991, and it was uncovered months ago by the team at

Obama used this bio for over 15 years, and it was revised a number of times. But he only changed it to indicate his true place of birth, Hawaii, once he decided to run for president.

He  has yet to explain why he lied in the first place, but he doesn’t have to.   He lied because he’s Barack Obama, and that’s what Barack Obama does.

See how this puts the media in a quandary? 

How do they script their desired “birther” message against Romney while the factual backdrop of truth exists?    An impossible task.

That type of messaging was the brilliance of Lee Atwater, and it is the type of messaging really needed in the next 8 weeks up to and including the Presidential Debates.

The affirmative candidate message sends the disparaging, but factual, counter message of the opponent.

It is a nuanced skill set, but it also simultaneously and completely deconstructs the attacks against you and keeps the opponent on the defensive.

There is one current highly visible patriotic politician who understands how to use this type of messaging, and she does it brilliantly.   “Hopium

This entry was posted in Decepticons, Dem Hypocrisy, Election 2012, media bias, Obama re-election, Romney Campaign, Sarah Palin, Tea Party, Typical Prog Behavior, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink.

6 Responses to Messaging 101 – Learn from the master Lee Atwater

  1. waltherppk says:


  2. 22tula says:

    Look Ma, No Strings!

    Karl who?
    Dedicated to the GOP Not Invited


  3. woohoowee says:

    Mrs. Palin understands and uses it brilliantly, indeed! I appreciate Newt’s style,also. He takes it to ’em every time! Sununu does the same.

    IMHO Mr. Romney put the opposition and the MSM (but I repeat myself) on notice that he is no pushover.

    Thanks for the insight into Atwater messaging. Learn something new every day:-)


  4. apachetears says:

    I don’t hate Rove or George Bush I don’t even hate Obama! I recall Golgol’s Quote everytime I do start to hate somebody or something, it goes like this: “Hate, corrodes the vessel it is carried in.”
    Hate harms the hater more than the person, place or thing that is hated.
    Besides I really liked George Bush.


    • chevymisty says:

      You are right. You can’t hate people, especially people you don’t know. It eats away at you while they live on perfectly happy with no idea that you even exist nor do they care that you exist or what you think of them. Hate only hurts the hater not the hated.


  5. Julie says:

    Near the end of his life, Atwater realized he was wrong:
    In a February 1991 article for Life Magazine, Atwater declared:
    My illness helped me to see that what was missing in society is what was missing in me: a little heart, a lot of brotherhood. The ’80s were about acquiring — acquiring wealth, power, prestige. I know. I acquired more wealth, power, and prestige than most. But you can acquire all you want and still feel empty. What power wouldn’t I trade for a little more time with my family? What price wouldn’t I pay for an evening with friends? It took a deadly illness to put me eye to eye with that truth, but it is a truth that the country, caught up in its ruthless ambitions and moral decay, can learn on my dime. I don’t know who will lead us through the ’90s, but they must be made to speak to this spiritual vacuum at the heart of American society, this tumor of the soul.


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