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Maybe the dogs don’t like it

Once upon a time a pet food company created a new variety of dog food and rolled out a massive marketing campaign to introduce the product. Despite hiring a first-rate advertising agency, initial sales were very disappointing. The agency was fired and a new agency and a new campaign was launched. Sales continued to disappoint. If anything, they fell even further. In desperation, the CEO called in all of the top executives for a brainstorming session to analyze what had gone wrong with the two campaigns and how a new campaign might revive sales.

The meeting went on for hours. Sophisticated statistical analysis was brought to bear on the problem. One VP argued that the mix of TV and print ads had been messed up. Another argued that the previous campaigns had been too subtle and had failed to feature the product with sufficient prominence. Another argued that the TV ad campaign had focused too much on spots during sporting events and not enough on regular programming with a broader demographic. Another argued the opposite–not enough sports programming had been targeted. After the debate had raged for hours, the CEO felt they had accomplished very little. He asked if anyone else had any theories that might explain the failure of the new product. Finally, one newly hired employee raised his hand and was recognized. Maybe the dogs don’t like it, she said.

If Brown wins today in Massachusetts, we’re going to hear all kinds of explanations. Misplaced voter anger is already being invoked. Coakley ran a horrible campaign. The incumbent party is unpopular when times are bad. It snowed. Or it didn’t. Whatever. The simplest explanation is that a majority of the citizens of Massachusetts oppose ObamaCare. Maybe they shouldn’t. Maybe they don’t realize how great it will be. But if Brown wins, the simplest explanation is that the most important issue, health care, was decisive. The voters don’t like ObamaCare and this is their chance to say so.