On BBC2 yesterday evening, in ‘JFK-The Making of Modern Politics’, Andrew Marr discussed the 1960 presidential campaign. Most of us know about the famous television debate when the unshaven, sweating Nixon lost the viewer vote. However there was much more to a campaign that started out with Kennedy as the rank outsider, known to less than half the population.
To win he pioneered ideas now common to most political campaigns. He put style ahead of substance, he portrayed his enviable life style, he spent huge amounts of money and he was ruthless when needed. All this worked for him. But perhaps the most telling of Marr’s observations was this. He said that JFK knew how to “paint a mood”.
He did not get bogged down in detail and policy statements. When he met voters he talked to them as individuals, he listened to them and above all created a sense of promise that anything seemed possible. “His vigour, his vibrancy and his cheerful optimism made them feel hopeful, energised, enthused and… interested”.
Next time, paint a mood!