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    Persuasion's Fulcrum

    Will rhetoric determine whether Obama or Romney wins this fall? You bet it will, though in ways that may surprise you. It’ll come down to two factors: turnout, and a very few persuadable voters. That’s what all that fuss about super-PACs and anonymous donors comes down to. The money pays for advertising, which affects turnout and persuades the few remaining persuadable voters.

    So here’s a drinking game to help you tolerate the barrage of political advertising. If an ad focuses on values issues like marriage or abortion, it’s trying to increase turnout for one party or another. Chug a chalice of communion wine. If it focuses on anything practical like the economy, it’s aiming at the precious few voters who haven’t yet made up their minds. Down a Red Bull. 

    How few are these “undecideds”? (Figaro prefers the more positive term “persuadables.”) Check out this comment from political guru Paul Begala.

    The American president will be selected by fewer than half the number of people who paid to get into a Houston Astros home game last year — and my beloved Astros sucked last year; they were the worst team in baseball. Put another way, there are about as many people in San Jose as there are swing voters who will decide this election. That’s not even as many people as attended Puerto Rican cockfights in the past year — although there are obvious similarities.

    Some people have poked holes in Begala’s assertion. But the point is this: persuasion isn’t about the people you disagree with. It’s about the fulcrum; the persuadable audience.

    Sadly, America’s persuadable political audience follows the news less, and so is more easily manipulated, than the rest of us. Money in politics isn’t the problem. The fulcrum is the problem.

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