Friday, April 4, 2008

The presidential candidates CEO skills

Republican Politics, American Style
Published on March 20th in Metro Eireann By Charles Laffiteau

Last week my closing comment was to express my hope for a landslide victory by Barack Obama in the General Election, one that would also usher in a bigger Democratic majority in Congress as well as many state legislatures.
One of my Republican friends, who is also sympathetic to my reasons for supporting Barack Obama, was nonetheless surprised to hear me advocating for larger Democratic legislative majorities as well. He wondered how I could do this given my longstanding opposition to many of the policies supported by previous Democratic legislative majorities in Congress as well as state government. So I will now attempt to explain my reasons for taking such a radically different position on this subject.
History has shown that US Presidents elected in landslide elections also bring substantial changes to the United State’s domestic political landscape. After his landslide election in 1932 Franklin Roosevelt brought Americans guaranteed old age pension benefits in the form of Social Security legislation. On the heels of his 1964 landslide Lyndon Johnson pushed through the 1965 Voting Rights Act that would later guarantee the success of 1964’s Civil Rights legislation. Ronald Reagan was able to cement the tax and economic reforms he had pushed through Congress (which significantly altered US economic and taxation policy) following his landslide win over Walter Mondale in 1984.
Just as the US was grappling with seemingly intractable domestic problems in those years, we now face a host of equally daunting issues that will require landmark legislation to effectively deal with them. I hope I will be able to see Barack Obama follow in the footsteps of these other Presidents because I believe he is the only one of the three remaining candidates with a chance of winning the Presidency in a landslide.
With a voter mandate provided by an overwhelming electoral win and a strengthened Democratic majority in Congress, Obama would be able to cut through a lot of the partisan political posturing we have seen in Congress for the last 20 years. With his emphasis on finding common ground and not trying to settle old political scores, I believe he would be able to get enough support from both Democrats and moderate Republicans to pass the difficult measures that will be required to address America’s ills while the country is simultaneously experiencing tough economic times.
If one closely examines the political campaigns of the three remaining Presidential hopefuls, you can get a pretty good idea of who is more likely to perform best in the role of US President. Being President of the United States of America is more akin to being the CEO of a huge corporation and thus is a role that is quite different than the advise and consent role played by a US Senator. Being an effective US Senator with a paid staff of 20 people doesn’t require the same kind of CEO skills needed to manage a Presidential campaign with a paid staff of over 500 people.
Let’s take a minute to examine the records of all 3 Senators and how well they have managed their respective Presidential campaigns over the past year. John McCain began his campaign in November of 2006 as the Republican frontrunner with the advantage of his past experience running for President in 2000 and narrowly losing in some key primaries against the current President Bush. He had the experience and the national name recognition from the previous campaign as well as a strong fundraising operation. McCain actually had more well connected lobbyists as fundraisers than any other candidate for President and raised over $13 million in the first quarter of last year.
So what happened? By July of last year the McCain presidential campaign was almost broke and they had to let almost 100 staffers go while the other remaining staff took pay cuts or switched to being unpaid advisors. McCain had also slipped from first to fourth place in national polls behind Rudy Giuliani, Mitt Romney and the as yet undeclared candidacy of Fred Thompson. As a result McCain also showed both his campaign manager and chief campaign strategist the door.
But John McCain’s subsequent comeback to win the Republican nomination was less about savvy political campaign management and more due to the mistakes of his competitors and fortunate turns of events that McCain had no control or influence over.
In January of 2007 Hillary Clinton began her Presidential campaign in an even stronger position than John McCain thanks to the transfer of $10 million from her NY Senate campaign. She had been discussing running for President since the fall of 2002 and so it was widely assumed that much of the money raised for her 2006 Senate re-election was actually destined for the 2008 Presidential race.
She was the immediate Democratic frontrunner in all of the national polls due to her name recognition as the wife of a popular former President at a time when the current President was very unpopular. She also led the polls in the first 6 Democratic primary/caucus states and used this data coupled with influential lobbyists to raise an additional $25 million in the first quarter of 2007 to add to the $10 million from her 2006 Senate re-election campaign she started the presidential race with. By October of 2007 Hillary Clinton had a commanding lead in all of the national and early voting state polls over her 2 main rivals, John Edwards and Barack Obama.
By the beginning of December Senator Clinton was presumed by most political observers and establishment Democrats to be unstoppable in her quest to be the Democratic Presidential nominee. As a result many of these Democratic politicians decided to jump on the fast moving Clinton Presidential campaign train and announced they would cast their un-pledged delegate vote for Clinton at the Democratic National Convention. Clinton had over 200 Super-delegates pledged to support her before the first voters ever went to the polls.
So what happened? I will discuss this in some detail next week.

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