Democrat & Republican Campaign Consultants Discuss the 2020 Elections

January 18, 2019

Policy Breakfast: “The 2020 Election: Political Messaging in a Divided Era” on January 17, 2019

The French-American Foundation’s first Policy Breakfast of 2019 featured two influential campaign consultants from opposing parties who spoke about political messaging and the 2020 Presidential election.

Andrea Johnson, Principal at GPS Impact, has a 32-year career as a democratic media strategist. She contributed to the communications strategy and creative content for the campaigns of nine US Senators, two Governors, a long list of national political action committees, and President Obama. Jim McLaughlin, President and Partner at McLaughlin & Associates, is a nationally recognized public opinion expert who helped to elect over 70 members of Congress, 16 US Senators, 10 Governors, Prime Ministers, and President Donald J. Trump. Foreign policy expert Charlotte Morgan (Young Leader ’15) moderated the discussion.

Johnson and McLaughlin opened the conversation with an acknowledgment of the power of social media in today’s political landscape and its potential for both positive and negative effects. Johnson and McLaughlin noted how social media can both break down barriers and democratize voices, and how it can also deepen the political divide. They discussed the growing share of digital content in the media landscape and consumers’ ever-evolving methods for media consumption.

Tying this idea to 2020, the discussion shifted to the importance of messaging that provides hope and optimism—whether Reagan’s “morning in America” message or Obama’s “change we can believe in” tagline, successful messaging regularly demonstrates these qualities. Johnson pointed out the vast difference between messaging in the primaries and messaging in general elections, while McLaughlin called attention to the importance of the messages targeted to the economic middle and working classes.

Guests at the breakfast asked a variety of questions that led to a lively discussion on the mainstream media, candidate predictions for 2020, and the implications of political messaging and social media for Emmanuel Macron in France.

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Photos credit: Kari Bjorn