Sabato's Crystal Ball

Readers React: Sloganeering on the Road to the White House

U.Va. Center for Politics May 3rd, 2012

In 2008, Barack Obama used the phrase “Yes We Can” as part of his effort to energize millions of voters to support his presidential bid. On Monday, the Obama campaign revealed its 2012 slogan, “Forward,” at the conclusion of a seven-minute advertisement recapping the administration’s achievements. The one-word motto builds on the idea that some change has happened under the current administration and that the country should continue to move, well, “forward.” That’s the opposite of the direction Democrats will argue Romney will lead the country. This isn’t rocket science.

Republicans will mock the slogan with one-liners such as “Yes, ‘forward’ over a cliff.” We’re also sure that conservatives won’t miss the fact that “lean forward” is the slogan of their cable news nemesis, MSNBC. When creating a slogan, campaigns always need to be careful not to make it easy for the line to be parodied. In 1964, Barry Goldwater’s slogan was “In your heart, you know he’s right.” Democrats responded, “In your guts, you know he’s nuts.”

Meanwhile, fans of The Simpsons will surely be reminded of a classic episode when an alien impersonating Bill Clinton declares that “We must move forward, not backward. Upward, not forward. And always twirling, twirling, twirling toward freedom!”

“Forward” is a term sometimes associated with moderates, most recently with the centrist group No Labels: “Not Left. Not Right. Forward.”

Romney’s slogan is “Believe in America.” Feel like you’ve heard that before? It was used by John Kerry at one point in 2004. Also, it’s in the opening line of The Godfather — probably not what Romney was trying to evoke.

Maybe Romney should go with something else, so we asked Twitter users to submit some of their own ideas for Romney’s slogan.

Our favorite comes from @gavinize, who riffed off Obama’s 2008 slogan: “Hope Less, Do More.”

Alex Burns (@aburnspolitico) from Politico suggested a term associated with Richard Nixon: “Sock it to me.”

Tom Bevan of RealClearPolitics (@TomBevanRCP), along with @mattlyonsms, suggested a simple slogan that gets at the heart of Romney’s economic message: “America Works.”

Jason Whitman of the Young Republican National Federation must have noticed Ann Romney’s recent comment about her husband: “I still look at him as the boy that I met in high school when he was playing all the jokes and really just being crazy, pretty crazy. And so there’s a wild and crazy man inside of there just waiting to come out!” So Whitman (@JasonBWhitman) suggests: “Inside, I’m a wild man.”

Friend of the Crystal Ball Alex Beres (@talexberes) turned President Warren G. Harding’s “Return to Normalcy” on its head by suggesting “A Return to Exceptionalism”

Here are some of our other favorites, both serious and sarcastic. Thanks to our Twitter followers for the suggestions:

@121GigaWHATS: “Get America Working Again”

@KatMcKinley: “Getting the economy and you working again”

@LibertysLev: “Restore, Strengthen and Renew”

@gogurt48: “Putting America Back to Work”

@liberaldemise: “Change Done Right”

@Yert_Siwel: “The last 4 years have been…Ruff!”

@jaxbchgirl521: “O MUST GO!”

@AmeriChronicles: “Because sobering times require a teetotaler.”

@KeyWestAuthor: “Every dog has its day”

@malgeo: “A chicken in every pot, a car elevator in every home”

@RussCroteau: “Trust Me I Didn’t Get Rich by Accident”

@ThePantau: “If you were lukewarm for McCain, you’ll be milquetoast for Mitt”

– Geoffrey Skelley (@geoffreyvs), Larry Sabato (@LarrySabato) and Kyle Kondik (@kkondik)