Monday, September 3, 2012

A Presidential Campaign's Most Important Hour

According to David Gergen, the Dean of Presidential political analyists, the most important hour of a Presidential campaign, by far, is the 10 o'clock hour on Thursday night of the nominee's convention.  This is the prime time hour meant to introduce the candidate to the American people.  It is meant to humanize and reveal to the American people "the person" who wishes to spend four years 'in our living room', not necessarily his policies.  David Gergen, who I was fortunate to hear during a panel discussion at the release of the Elon University Poll at the DNC in Charlotte today, said that the Romney campaign could not have done a worse job with this critical task during the final night of the 2012 GOP convention in Tampa.

The opportunity which was lost with the Clint Eastwood fiasco and the complete lose of control of that hour on Thursday night in Tampa cannot be regained, according to Gergen. The debates are not meant to humanize or personally 'connect' the candidate with the American people like that Thursday night hour.  The debates are about substance and policy.  That is not Romney's weakness.  His weakness is likability, a lack of human 'connection'.  That was the point of the lost hour on Thursday night at the convention.  The Romney campaign has been as poorly run as any in memory. 

Gergen told a great story of the the introduction of Jimmy Carter at the 1976 Democratic Convention.  He said it was genius, and the Ford campaign, of which Gergen was a major contributor and advisor at the time, never recovered.  He said the 10 o'clock hour at the DNC was a beautifully orchestrated production, which included a film followed the introduction of a very warm candidate who connected perfectly with the an American people who were "taken" with the candidate.  He said that Gerry Ford fail 30 points behind immediately following the convention and never was able to catch up from that experience.

One last related point.  A panelist today pointed out that the most "likeable" Presidential candidate ALWAYS wins.  The one exception was Nixon in 1972, according to a "light" moment from Gergen.  If you think back to about 1928, that is exactly the case.  That bodes well for Barack Obama, who is way ahead in the likeability area.  But again, this is a unique year, so we'll have to wait and see.

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