Wednesday, November 28, 2007

A Winning Strategy

Dear Chops,

I have kissed babies and hugged grandfathers. I have lied glowingly about my love for ethanol. I have conducted push polls, opposed free-trade agreements with key allies, and pandered to the far *****. I have spent $50 per caucus-goer in Iowa. Yet I'm still mired in *th place in the polls. What do I need to do to really pull away from the pack?
Dear *****,

You could be honest with the voters, but look where that's gotten John McCain, Joe Biden, and Ron Paul. You could spend $100 per Iowa caucus-goer, but your rivals probably will too. Or you could pull an end-run around the entire primary process and create a new paradigm for American elections.

Like most candidates, you are tied to your home state and your experience as a *****. That benefits you in some regions and hurts you in others. Imagine if you could transcend that - and appear more serious about governing at the same time.

Specifically, you need to pick a vice president. A good Veep-select will add regional and ideological balance to your run, and give you double coverage in the Mad Rush of December 26th - February 5th. Having chosen a VP will show that you are electable and ready to govern. And the controversy from having done so earlier than anyone in American history will give you two or three days of blanket media coverage - most of it positive.

A well-balanced ticket is now far more valuable in primaries than in the general election. Vice Presidents have lost much of their cachet as "ticket balancers" in recent general elections, as polarity and national party machines overwhelm regional loyalty. It's possible that a selection from Ohio or Florida could swing a close election your way - but close elections are the exception, not the rule. Besides, the way you're going, you won't get the chance to run in the general election. But in the primaries, name-recognition is low and voters get to vote their hearts. Your VP selection will allow voters to swallow objections to your support for *****. It will also help them take your "change of heart" on ***** seriously. And if they're worried about your lack of ***** experience, a good VP has you covered.

Choosing a VP at this stage also signals electability and leadership. It's like an endorsement, but with real commitment. There's an old saw that in a ham-and-egg breakfast, the chicken was involved, but the pig was committed. An endorser is involved, but a VP is committed. Voters who respect the VP will take his or her commitment as a strong signal that you are electable. Picking a VP - provided the choice is not silly - also shows that you are thinking about January 2009 as well as January 2008. While your opponents are trying to distill their policy proposals into soundbites, you can decisively make one of the most important and digestible judgments of your presidency and submit it to the voters

Subverting an aspect of the nominating process will earn you plenty of criticism - and that is a reason in favor of doing so. Trenchant traditionalists will bemoan your decision or deride it as expediency. But you hold the trump card: you are giving more say to the voters, not less. The old system resembles the VP selection from 1792 - 1800, when voters picked the president but could end up with an unwanted VP. The new system - which everyone will adopt in 2012 after you win this nomination - promotes positive aspects of democracy, like compromise and balance, instead of the polarity of the old solo-primary system. Besides, the longer the controversy lasts, the longer you'll dominate the news. Voters who won't be listening until the calendar says "2008" will hear your name (and your Veep's) early and often, and they'll hear it from pundits, editorialists, and politically active friends.

Whether you take my advice or not, someone will, maybe not until 2012 or 2016, but eventually. That candidate may not win the general election, but if he picks a good VP at the right time, he'll win the nomination. And that's more than you're going to do without a revolutionary strategy.


Anonymous said...

I like it.

ali baba

Chops said...

Fast-forward 6 months: nobody used the strategy, and boy did they suffer for it. But Obama still has time, as GR outlines on April 29, 2008.