Friday, October 15, 2010

TIME List Won't Be Major Help to Amash

It is no doubt a publicity coup to be named to TIME Magazine's list of 40 under 40 civic leaders, which is the case for West Michigan's Justin Amash. The question is, from a political PR standpoint, will it move numbers for the young congressional candidate a few weeks before the election.

The answer is, yes and no. You can see what I mean just by looking at the comments accompanying the Grand Rapids Press article about the list. The publicity didn't affect the partisans. Amash supporters utter praise, detractors make accusations. Neither positive or negative comments are really about the TIME list, because that list merely points out youth; it does not address political ideology or issues.

The publicity splash does help in some ways. Just like a yard sign, it helps with name recognition in the district. It adds some national credibility to a candidate who some may have been seen by potential West Michigan voters as just a young local man. In that sense, it may excite some who were on the fence about going to the polls, and it may move some independents to consider Amash.

It is true that elections are won in the middle, not on the margins where hard-core beliefs are rarely changed. But in this election season in particular, being on a national list is far less important than addressing the list of local issues and being consonant with the political worldview of the majority of constituents in Amash's district. There's an old adage attributed to former Speaker of the House Tip O'Neill: "all politics is local." That's something to keep in mind when weighing the value of national publicity for a candidate whose public is entirely local.

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