For those of you old enough to remember the hit sitcom “Cheers,” you’ll remember the episode where Norm was thrown into the role of corporate ax man, charged with the job of telling employees that they’d been fired. As it turned out, Norm had a knack for giving the bad news in such a manner as to dramatically lessen the blow to the recipient.
If you are challenging an incumbent, what you are doing is asking voters to “fire” that person – the very person many of them voted for in the past. So in essence, what you’re asking them to do is admit they made a mistake in previous elections.
Quick show of hands: How many of you like to admit you screwed up?
Exactly. It goes against human nature.
But that’s what you’re asking voters to do when you ask them to vote against someone they’ve voted for in the past…which is exactly the point James Taranto of “Best on the Web” makes in the column below.
Taranto writes specifically about the GOP effort to defeat President Obama, but the principle is the same in your own races against incumbents at the state or local level. Your challenge is to persuade people who voted for your opponent in the past to acknowledge their mistake and correct this year – and like Norm, make them feel good about it.
It’s a tricky proposition…deserving of considerable thought on your part.
Until next time. Onward and rightward…
Dr. Chuck Muth, PsD
Professor of Psephology (homeschooled)
“How to Get More Votes, More Donors & More Volunteers”
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‘Nice Guys’ Finish Last
by James Taranto
One advantage an incumbent president has when seeking re-election is that he has already persuaded many voters to cast a ballot for him. That means a challenger — or the incumbent himself, by doing a lousy job — has to convince a substantial number to change their minds. Mitt Romney or Rick Santorum will not become president this November without the support of millions who voted for Barack Obama in 2008.
National Review’s Jim Geraghty ponders what this means for this year’s campaign. “Generally speaking,” he observes, “people hate admitting they made a mistake. . . . Very few Obama voters will express their vote for the GOP [nominee] in 2012 as an explicit act of personal penance for bad judgment.” Instead, “a lot of Obama voters must be persuaded that they made the wrong choice in 2008, and that it isn’t their fault.”
How to do this? Geraghty goes on:
Monday I spoke to a smart political mind who had been watching focus groups of wavering Obama voters in swing states, and he said that one word that those voters kept coming back to, again and again, was “naïve.” (The term was to describe the president, not themselves.) Those who voted for Obama won’t call him stupid, and certainly don’t accept that he’s evil. But they have seen grandiose promises on the stimulus fail to materialize, touted as the answer to all their health care needs and turn out to be nothing of the sort, pledges of amazing imminent advances in alternative energy, and so on.
The list goes on, but you get the point: “If we’re seeking to persuade Obama voters that it’s okay to vote for someone else this time, perhaps we need to reinforce that notion that he just doesn’t quite understand how things work in the real world.”
This notion does not actually contradict the idea that Obama is a hard-left radical pursuing terribly destructive policies. It just leaves open the possibility that he is a foolish idealist rather than an evil genius–which seems a more realistic measure of the man in any case. As Peggy Noonan put it in October: “A nation in trouble probably wants a fatherly, or motherly, figure at the top. What America has right now is a bright, lost older brother.”
In this respect at least, Romney seems better suited than Santorum to make the case against Obama. A couple of weeks ago The Atlantic’s Alexander Abad-Santos took note of one of the former governor’s favorite lines about the president:
Monday night Romney was crisscrossing Ohio, when he spoke about the President and opened up a can of . . . friendliness: “This is a failed presidency,” Romney was quoted as saying. “He’s a nice guy, but he’s in over his head.” Though we’ll never know if Romney actually believes any part of that insult, we do know that “Nice guy” has become the candidate’s favorite setup when taking a dig at his rivals.
“He’s a nice guy, but . . .” is exquisitely condescending. It’s probably not true: Obama strikes us as a petulant narcissist. But calling someone a “nice guy” is rarely a genuine compliment, and it never is when conjoined by “but.” As any man who has ever been rejected by a woman knows, describing someone as “a nice guy, but . . .” is another way of saying he’s ineffectual. That is exactly the point Romney is making about Obama. …
If Geraghty is right, Romney’s approach is better suited to capturing independent swing voters. It will be easier for them to change their minds if they believe they overestimated Obama’s competence rather than that they supported somebody who posed a “foundational” threat to America.
It might also be helpful to remind Obama voters that even in retrospect, their support for him in 2008 seems plausible when compared with the alternative. That would be harder for Romney to do, though, seeing as how he’s accepted the endorsement of John McCain.