Many Voters Don’t Care If Your Ideas Are Better

It’s the rallying crying for any political party or ideology that has either recently suffered a defeat or is looking forward to the next election, convinced that “this time” will be “the time.”

The script is usually the same. “We will win because our ideas are better!”

There is a large segment of voters, both on the left and right, that does pay close attention to the policies of the candidates and makes very informed choices, despite everybody being convinced that whoever did not vote their way is a fool.

The dynamics of elections changed the moment people saw a dour Richard Nixon on stage with a young, handsome John F. Kennedy. Despite the 1960 election being razor close, some people remain convinced that it was the televised debate between the two candidates that ultimately swung the election in favor of the Democrat.

It wasn’t until Ronald Reagan came along that a President made a similar kind of connection with voters. Bill Clinton enjoyed the same success, as did George W. Bush, and finally, Barack Obama.

What do all of these Presidents have in common? Particular phrases come to mind:

“He’s a guy I’d like to have a beer with.”

“He seems to really care about people.”

“I like that guy.”

“He cares about people like me.”

This type of perception has become critical for many voters. They want to elect somebody with whom they can identify with in some way.

George W. Bush, despite being from a powerful political family, projected the folksy neighbor next to John Kerry who had less charisma than a piece of gum on a the sidewalk in the middle of summer.

Barack Obama was able to present himself as the every-man while painting Mitt Romney as an out of touch plutocrat.

Such tactics were infuriating to both sides, but only because they worked.

Like it or not, twenty-four hour news channels, Facebook, blogs, Twitter, and other forms of social media have closed the gap of interaction between the average person and those with some level of name recognition. If somebody had told me several years ago, “In a few years, you’ll do this online radio show, and one of your guests will be the former press secretary to the President of the United States”, I would have laughed. But it did happen.

Our direct interaction with the politicians who run the country has increased exponentially.

The GOP, if it expects to win the Presidency in 2016, needs to wake up to the reality that their “ideas” simply are not going to sweep them into the White House.

Libertarians should heed this warning as well. Telling people they’ll be able to legally smoke weed at gay weddings all the live long day is not going to do it either.

In addition, this connection to voters cannot be faked. Many voters may not be up to date on issues such as Obamacare as much as they should be, but they can tell when candidates are full of it. Again, look back at 2004. Images of John Kerry hunting and windsurfing just made him look like a complete dork. Mitt Romney melted eardrums with his lousy renditions of ‘God Bless America’ at campaign stops. It was painful to watch (and listen to).

On the other side of the coin, there may be no politician who loves the taste of his own feet more than Vice President Joe Biden. The amount of stupidity that has escaped his lips during his tenure in Washington DC is legendary. Some of it has been offensive enough that it should have driven him out-of-town.

He has survived this long largely because people see him as that goofy loud Uncle who hangs out at family barbecues and thinks the fire is not big enough unless the flames are five feet high. The media have bought into this narrative as well by declaring, “That’s just Joe being Joe.”

Public perception is what has kept President Obama’s head above water in his approval ratings. Despite being upside-down on individual issues such as the economy, the debt, deficits, and the scandals (in addition to Obamacare being unpopular), he has maintained an approval rating hovering close to the 50% mark. This stems from two factors:

  • The unpopularity of Congress
  • Obama’s high favorable ratings. People still like him.

The GOP has a tough task ahead of them. They will need to field a candidate who can unite an agitated base of voters in the primaries, talk effectively to people in middle class pockets throughout the USA, and also reach those voters looking for that “personal” connection.

Contrary to what many people now think, this will likely not involve finding the “best” candidate.

The GOP only needs to find the right candidate.