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Obama v. Romney: Energy Plans Show Keyword Optimization is Critical for Getting the Right Message to the Right Audience

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(Photo copyright by Gage Skidmore and licensed for reuse under this Creative Commons license)

With Mitt Romney formally presenting his national energy plan Thursday, we can learn a lot about how the candidates are approaching the issue (and strategizing in general) by looking at both what they are saying, and how they are saying it.

On the Right:
Romney’s energy plan, which prominently features measures to expand and expedite domestic energy development (read: drilling) claims it will create more than three million new jobs, add more than $500 billion to GDP, reduce the trade deficit, and generate more than a trillion dollars in revenue. This emphasis on the economic benefits of his platform even makes it into the front page of the plan itself – energy independence is Romney’s plan “for a stronger middle class.” Prior to Thursday, jobs was still a watchword for Romney – it appeared in the informal working title for his energy platform (“Pro-Jobs, Pro-Market, Pro-American”), and appears within the first 10 words of the copy.

The message comes through clearly – for Romney, even when it’s about energy, it’s still all about the economy. This stance makes a lot of sense for a challenger running during a time of slow economic recovery, and also lines up with traditional conservative policies and speaks to Romney’s base.

On the Left:
President Obama’s advocacy of an “all of the above” energy plan in his most recent State of the Union has been read by many as a hedge towards the middle, a calculated move slightly closer to traditional energy and away from the alternative and renewable energy sector he had thus far championed. But the Obama campaign’s recent messaging gives some clarity to the president’s stance. Part of a statement from former secretary of energy Federico Peña, which The Wall Street Journal reports was circulated by the Obama campaign in response to the release of the Romney/Ryan plan, describes Obama’s approach as one that “responsibly” develops the country’s natural resources.

Obama is also reported to have recently said, in referring to the increase in U.S.-generated wind and solar energy, “that is clean, it’s renewable…” The emphasis on “responsibly” developing resources and producing “clean” and “renewable” energy leans on the environmental and social responsibility values traditionally associated with the liberal base.

The Takeway:

Both candidates are building their platform around energy independence, and are making sure to articulate that messaging. But the differences in how they describe the benefits of their energy platforms are where they will differentiate themselves from each other, and, to some extent, hitch their fate come November.

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