The President’s Flawed Campaign Strategy

The President’s Wrong Headed Rationale, and a Warning from…yeah, Democrats.

The first arrow came from Chris Matthews…the one who once claimed that Obama sent a thrill up his leg. The second came from Democratic polltakers Pat Caddell and Doug Schoen. The latter two advised the President to step aside and let Hillary Clinton lead the 2012 parade. The former termed the people surrounding the President “little kids with propellers on their heads,” and strongly criticized the President for failing to state clearly and succinctly why he wants another term and what he will do with it if he gets it.

All are reacting to the President’s apparent strategy of “win it ugly.” That’s what unpopular incumbents must do when running for reelection. Make the opponent stink so bad that voters opt for the devil they know over the one they don’t. Except it usually does not work very well. Carter tried it (Caddell was his poll taker at the time) and lost to Reagan. Republicans tried it in 2006 (The White House in early March of that year advised Republican incumbents to start their negative campaigns ‘early’). More recently Jon Corzine tried it in New Jersey, and Chris Christie won anyway despite Corzine’s deep pockets the blue voting habits of very blue New Jersey.

Caddell and Schoen take it a few yards further than Matthews, asserting that Obama “will need to wage the most negative campaign in history to stand any chance,” and that even if he wins a stink bomb campaign of that kind it will be almost impossible for the President to govern in the second term.

There are lessons in this for all candidates running for public office. For incumbents it is this. If your only hope a year from the election is the destruction of your opponent, think twice about what you are doing. That kind of victory is hard to come by and even if successful, life is hell in the next term. And for first time candidates, it is this. It is hard to do difficult things once elected unless one asks for and receives a mandate from the voters. If you don’t ask for it you won’t have it even if you win.

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Political consultant Jay Townsend works with smart, passionate candidates who want to run for office, win elections and make a difference. He has successfully helped candidates learn how to run for the U.S. Senate, how to run for Congress, how to run for Mayor and develop a winning campaign marketing strategy.

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