The PR Winners (and Losers) of the ’08 Election Season

President-elect Barack Obama is a public relations winner. Senator John McCain is a public relations loser. Voters said so on election day. The 2008 U.S. election cycle had a number of PR winners and PR losers. Some were rather easy to identify immediately, even if the final outcome from this most recent round of governmental upheaval won’t be apparent for several years.

PR Winner: Governor Sarah Palin

Last year, the Governor of Alaska was a virtual nobody on the national political scene and only slightly better known within the ranks of the GOP. Despite her ticket’s loss and the hits she took in the media, Palin is now a political celebrity and someone who a large swath of the population identifies with and admires. And the reality of the situation is that Palin had nothing on the line with this election because she’s young and was unknown beforehand. Despite the bad press, it was a public relations win. She can now consolidate political gains and win over detractors, something that older candidates with longer track records have difficulty doing. Palin could become an important player for years to come.

PR Loser: Senator Joe Lieberman

The former Democrat turned Independent and one-time VP candidate raised the ire of his old party by supporting McCain and attacking Obama. Lieberman caucuses with the Democrats, but after picking up enough Senate seats for a true majority his old party does not need him anymore, leaving the Connecticut Senator in the political wilderness.

PR Winner: The Media

For at least one day, people were buying newspapers like it was 1933. Printing presses across the country were running full-steam ahead trying to keep up with demand from consumers who wanted a memento from the election, momentarily reversing a steady decline in newsstand sales. Likewise, television got a boost from the election as there were no repeats of the type of sketchy reporting that plagued 60 Minutes or early-win calls on election night.

PR Loser: LGBT Community

Voters in Arizona, California, and Florida voted to ban same-sex marriage, a stunning blow considering Obama, perhaps the most LGBT-friendly Presidential candidate to date, won two of the three states.

PR Winner: The Udall Family

Mark Udall is the Senator-elect from New Mexico and Tom Udall is the Senator-elect from Colorado. The cousins won their respective races this week, continuing a family legacy of service that dates back over 100 years. The only bad news for the family is that double second-cousin Senator Gordon Smith lost his re-election bid in Oregon.

PR Loser: President George W. Bush

The election–and the euphoric reaction of many voters–served to repudiate the President’s administration. This wasn’t a surprise considering the President’s low approval ratings. Harry S. Truman had similarly low ratings when he left office in early 1953. It took a few decades, but Truman was later viewed as one of the great modern Presidents, widely adored by the public. (Herbert Hoover, Jimmy Carter, and George H. Bush have also been more popular and revered post-presidency.) Perhaps the final years of the Bush administration weren’t necessarily the public relations disaster they seemed at the time.

PR Winner: Governor Bobby Jindal

Barack Obama’s rise within the Democratic Party was partly the result of the loss of the 2000 and 2004 Presidential elections, and that bodes well for Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal. A Republican and former Congressman, Jindal is the first Indian-American Governor, and when the next Presidential election rolls around he’ll be just 39. Jindal was thought to be a possible VP pick for McCain this year, but that obviously didn’t pan out. He’ll have to wait until 2010 to make a big splash, but remember that the old guard Democratic Party was nearly as caucasian as the old guard GOP when Obama took center stage during the 2004 convention and thrust himself into the spotlight. The GOP needs an overhaul, and they’ll look to people like Jindal to make it happen.

PR Loser: Local Politicians

Throughout the final weeks of the Presidential campaign there was a lot of talk about which candidate would raise or cut taxes and for whom. Sadly, this obscured the more pressing issue of budget shortfalls on the state and municipal levels. Within 48 hours of the general election ending, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg rolled back a property tax rebate and threatened an income tax increase; California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger proposed a sales tax increase; and the Borough of Carlisle, Pennsylvania released a 2009 budget that calls for a 10 percent increase in property taxes and water rates. Soon enough, the issue of local tax increases will take center stage and this, in turn, will set the stage for the next round of elections.

This article, written by Ben Silverman, originally appeared in PR Fuel (, a free weekly newsletter from eReleases (, the online leader in affordable press release distribution. To subscribe to PR Fuel, visit:

Comments are closed.