Senate Vote Spurs Communications Storm

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Last Monday, April 16, Republicans in the United States Senate blocked a Democratic effort to open the floor for debate on President Obama’s Buffet Rule causing both parties to ramp up strategic communications efforts.

The measure to block the Republican cloture failed 51-to-45, with the Democrats needing at least 60 votes to introduce open debate on the measure. One Republican and one Democrat crossed party lines and four Senators did not vote.

The bill would have opened the debate, and likely passage, of the so-called Buffet Rule, which raises the tax rate on the superrich to at least 30 percent. The bill, made famous by billionaire investor Warren Buffet, was proposed by President Obama last September.

President Obama and the Democrats are trying to use this bill, along with others, to control the message of the economic debate, usually a Republican stronghold. With effective media relations and constituent relations, Democratic politicians can use the Buffet Rule to gain the support of the lower and middle classes of America. Democratic organizations have already began attacking vulnerable Senate Republicans and Mitt Romney over the tax rate.

Republicans are also attempting to control the message by pushing their platform that raising tax rates on the superrich would cut jobs in a volatile economic environment. However, more targeted messaging needs to be used in Massachusetts and Nevada, where Republican Senators are most in danger. Mitt Romney, the foregone Republican presidential nominee, also needs to communicate reasons why he is against Buffet Rule in order to win votes in November.

Finally, the public relations implications for the voters may be the most important. They will either positively or negatively associate the Buffet Rule with Democrats since it is the voters’ friends and family who will be affected by the tax.

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