Friday, February 08, 2008

Why Do Candidates Fail? 

This is interesting news. Mitt Romney has looks from central casting, experience in business and government as a leader, a strong political pedigree and piles of cash. But he failed as a presidential candidate.

What does it take to be viable? What messages? What presentation? What media? Whatever that mixture is, Romney clearly did not have it this election cycle, nor did John Edwards, another person with seemingly strong presence. Yet, a candidate who had failed last summer, Senator John McCain, is now the Republican front-runner.

Messages and candidates are of the moment in politics, but they are more than that. They are products of character, organization, fund raising, volunteers and political promises among other factors. Campaign professionals and journalists would say money is at the heart of everything. But, this time it wasn't. Romney and Edwards are wealthy. McCain was broke last summer and Mike Huckabee, the remaining Republican candidate has campaigned on a broken shoestring.

What this election cycles proves again is that effective communications programs are difficult to devise and execute. By effective, I mean programs that do more than build awareness but get individuals to perform an action -- vote for you. Playing a lottery is easier and about as successful. It is certainly less expensive. The candidates this year already have spent hundreds of millions and the nomination is not yet secure for any of them.

It is easy to assign reasons for why a candidate has failed. Journalists do it regularly. But the reasons are usually facile. It would take in-depth study to sort through the choices of a campaign to isolate those where things went wrong. I would like to see such a study for this election cycle.


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