Today I was asked if I thought Gov. Romney was cowardly because the Gov. Romney of 2012 seems to conflict with the Gov. Romney of 1996 strictly because he is being pulled by forces he simply can not seem to stand up to.
I do not think of him as cowardly. I do believe he has made a strategic decision to be the guy we see before us because as we heard from his own mouth , (when he ad-lib’d to reporters on his campaign plane a month ago), he just needs 50.1% of the vote and he will do whatever he needs to do to get it. Personally, I’m not sure that this is the strategy I would deploy for this particular job and this particular time. I do understand the business logic that a win, even by the smallest of margins, is still considered a win in many circles. I’m just not sure the model is the best plan if you are going to lead the entire country.
We live in a great country and it deserves tremendous respect from all of us. It is much more respectful for candidates to tell voters their specific tactics not their generic strategy. I say this because the generic phrases are not strategy -even though they do sell to some. It’s the tactical plan the people deserve to see. How many things are you adding/cutting? What is the demonstrable measurable benefit? What roadblock stands in your way and what is your plan for removing it? What happens if you are wrong and what will be your recovery plan if your projections do not pan out? How does your specific solution benefit me and my neighbor/family? C’mon , people can make much better decisions when they know the details.
Any challenger has a very good chance if they are much more tactical. We-the-folks are not as shallow as the consultants tell the candidates we are. We are willing to be engaged as long as we are informed. However, what I am saying flies-in-the face of any advice given by political consultants. The reason politicians seem to avoid being exactly who they really are is because they believe the general public will be turned off by the details or their details will be successfully challenged. So what if they are challenged. It’s not hard to defend “right”. It is clear to me that the voter apathy demonstrated by weak voter turnout is specifically tied to the fact that “blah, blah, blah, sound-bite, blah, blah is not a plan that motivates the majority of Americans. They hunger for more.
Is driving an incumbent or a challenger’s negatives in the summer the strategy the public is yearning for? Probably not, but in many circles negative campaigns do work. Unfortunately the tactic is probably less effective if the incumbent already has negatives known to the public. In this case, the incumbent is already either loved or hated – if they start with negatives they can’t fall off a dime. The negative strategy may actually backfire.
Once the incumbent’s favorability hits bottom, it is always easier for the incumbent to go up. The incumbent has the easier challenge because he/she only needs to keep his/her voters from staying home in the fall because he already won once. It is easier to say yes to what you know than yes to an unknown once you’re in the voting booth. It may not always be true but if the incumbent can convince 85% of his previous supporters that the other guy is going to hurt their gains, and if they pick up just a few new folks with a specific program, they win – especially if the challenger does not have “warrior-level” rabid supporters.
Yet a challenger need not despair because elections are about choices and an effective challenger can offer a better choice by being specific. It is the challenger that has to work harder, change minds, and present a solid plan specifically and demonstrably better than the incumbent. A plan that turns a supporter of the incumbent into a supporter of the challenger. Just hating the incumbent is not enough. Voters have to want to fight for, aggressively support and invest their time, talent, and treasure in the challenger. There can be no apathy in the ranks of supporters if the challenger is going to win so frankly 50.1% is not a plan. A plan is to win ALL of the voters by giving them all a significant reason to specially vote for you. I’m realistic enough to know ALL is not possible but why set your sights at .1%? You will not win them all but playing “margin politics” is a loser because the penalty for being even slightly wrong is too painful.
Here is my prediction. This election will NOT be decided on the economy. The contrasts are too great between the direction of the country and there are serious differences that will make for excellent debate. 8.2% unemployment sucks but my gut feeling tells me this is not the single issue for the 91.8% of those working. When something is so obvious and everyone is aware of it, the mystery is gone and it begins to get fixed. No one out there believes either of these candidates is going to ignore the economy so the people will turn their attention to issues much more internal and specific to their needs. There are too many things that are actually working in the economy in spite of all the negatives. I know everything is not perfect and growth is weak but this is still the country of choice for so many around the globe and the number 1 choice for a nearly all Americans. None of us are planning on leaving the country regardless of the results of the next election. This is our country and we own it – warts and all. Yes we can bo better. Yes Americans are nervous about keeping their jobs. Yes, even they realize any President of the whole country will never purposely destroy their job. I know both sides claim the other as a job destroyer as a fact, but history only says that if you focus on building the middle , you grow the lower (I hate the word lower) and the upper -regardless of party. Either party is capable of managing the economy as long as the specifics of their plans can be measured and scored for historical effectiveness.
This election is going to turn on this question: “Which one of these people cares about my life and my unique circumstances and what specifically are they going to do to improve it?”. This question is so much more than the economy; it’s life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Heady stuff. Intimately personal. Impactful. Neighborly. Telling people they are on their own is good tough-love but is not going to resonate with a voter looking for the candidate with a heart -especially in a tough ecomomy. I know it sounds wispy and emotional but we’re dealing with peoples lives in this challenging times. Everything is personal. Every decision specific. These voters are in play and they are ready to place their bets on the right candidate. They deserve specifics and they deserve measurable results not grand statements.
I know this sounds like something out of the “Age of Aquarious” but it is true. 11 fathers died when the BP oil rig blew up. 46 US soldiers were killed in Afghanistan last month. The drinking water near a well was contaminated and sent 5 people to the hospital in the Midwest. It’s so hot and dry that people are dying. 23 people were murdered in one US city in one week. A domestic terrorist shot up a movie theatre. Another domestic terrorist murdered 6 people in a Sikh place of worship. Another asshole raped and mudered an ex-wife/girlfriend. Too many people are out of work. A weather event destroyed the livelihoods of 50 families. Children with 4.0 grade-point averages can not afford to attend college. Entrepreneurs can’t open new businesses because they can’t get a loan – even though they have assets. Some stupid regulation forced a good business person out of business. All of this and more happened over the last 30 days and affects real people and real lives.
As you can see, the issues facing people are broad and each of these issues may be facing only one voter or may be facing every voter. A successful candidate needs to start caring about how our world is impacting the lives of our citizens and focus on developing specific plans to improve. Otherwise, Americans will continue to opt-out of engagement and lose any voice. I will not stand for that because I think we have a history of fighting for what is right and I see no reason we should relent and be so frustrated that we quit. Regardless of what the ads tell us, I could care less about generalizations – I want/demand specifics. I am not offering the specifics today because I want the candidate to make the case to all of us. We deserve it.
Whichever candidate figures this out wins by 5 points.