I spent Thursday evening watching my beloved Green Bay Packers have their way with the Kansas City Chiefs in their final pre-season game. On another screen I was watching the final night of the Republican convention. So forgive me if I throw out some football analogies here.
I won’t rehash the speeches or highlight the best lines of the night. That is all being done by smarter people elsewhere. We now have a slate of candidates and it’s full steam ahead to November. I’m pleased with our choice of candidates and I think we are going to do very well. In some cases I would have preferred another candidate. But like the Stones used to sing, “You can’t always get what you want. But if you try sometimes, you might find, you get what you need.” That may be true for us this year.
Primary season began over a year ago. Back then, we all had a list of things we wanted in a candidate. We chose our preferred candidates based on how many things they checked off on our list. It reminds me of this Coke Zero commercial that is currently running:
In the commercial, the condemned is rewarded with more and more stuff just by saying the word “and” until he ultimately gets his freedom. We do the same thing during primary season. We all want this “and” that “and” even more. But in real life, candidates falter and eventually drop out of the race until we end up where we are now. I’m not suggesting that the candidates we are left with are somehow inferior. We just have different lists and are always looking for more than is currently being offered. The early primary season is much like the beginning of a football game. Teams will often use big plays to get a quick score and put the other team in a position where they have to play catch-up. There is relatively little risk in this strategy. Even if it goes horribly wrong, you’ve still got a lot of game left. Other teams will advance the ball slowly, try not to make any turnovers, and hope they are in a position to win at the end of the game. Each strategy has merits. Sometimes both strategies will put you in the same position at the end of the game. Candidates who failed to secure the nomination likely did a lot of “Monday morning quarterbacking” after their campaigns ended.
When you choose a candidate to support, you are in a sense telling all of the other candidates what your priorities are. No one listens to us as individuals. But through support of candidates our wants, call them our list of “ands”, are made clearer to all of the other candidates. As the candidate pool thins out, those left standing adjust their priorities based on their desire to tap into a new group of available voters. Some people call this “flip flopping” or pandering. I think it is a little more nuanced than that. Mitt Romney became the Republican Presidential nominee tonight. There are some who have been Romney supporters from the beginning. Many people made the suggestion that backing Romney early would avoid a nasty primary fight and would unite the party. Somehow this unity would be necessary if we were to defeat President Obama. I reject this idea wholeheartedly. Here are some examples:
- Herman Cain’s 9-9-9 plan – We can argue the merits of Herman’s plan for days. But the beauty of it was it’s simplicity. At the same time Herman Cain was getting a huge surge in the polls, Mitt Romney was floating his 59 point plan for jobs and economic growth. Nobody was listening to Mitt. Everybody knew about the 9-9-9 plan. In tonight’s acceptance speech, we got a five-point plan for fixing the economy. Thank you Herman Cain. You helped the eventual nominee.
- Rick Perry’s regulatory hatchet – Rick Perry got a lot of early traction talking up the need to get the government off our backs. This came from a governor who’s state legislature only meets ever other year and has a relatively low government employee to citizen ratio. And Rick Perry’s Texas had a lot of economic growth in his state to brag about because of it. Perry wanted to nuke entire government agencies even though he famously had trouble articulating them at times. Tonight point five from our nominee was about “simplifying and modernizing the regulations that hurt small business the most.” Thank you Rick Perry. You helped the eventual nominee.
- Repealing Obamacare – I can’t attribute this to any one candidate. But many of them from the earliest days of the campaign were loudly and repeatedly calling for the repeal of Obamacare. As much as I tried I could not find any definitive statements from team Romney calling for a full repeal. This changed about 6-8 months ago. It is now part of every stump speech I hear and is included in the five point plan. Thanks to all of the candidates who vigorously promoted repeal in their platforms. You helped the eventual nominee.
There are other examples. But you get the point. Do I think Mitt Romney is a different man today than he was one, three, or 10 years ago? Absolutely not. He’s a good man, a proud American, and he will be a fine President. But I do think the way he addresses the items on his agenda has been shaped by messages we have sent him for the last year and a half. So tell those people who say your primary vote is wasted by not backing the favorite on day one to go pound sand. Those messages helped create a better candidate. The changes in strategy, tone, and content prove that he is listening. It’s no longer the first quarter and we’re not looking for a quick score. It’s the fourth quarter, it’s 3rd and 2, and we need a first down to keep the drive going. I like our chances. For this purpose Mitt Romney may be just what we need.