Palin's Perception of Pain
And that's the part of this election that bugs me the most. Immediately after the debate, notoriously conservative FOX News was polling its own in-house studio audience as to who won the debate and, not surprisingly, found for the Alaskan governor. Not long after that, left-leaning MSNBC had poll figures indicating that among undecided voters, the senator from Delaware was winning by a two-to-one margin.
The winner, it would seem, was determined by the political agenda being driven by any given medium reporting it.
In this, perhaps the first not-only-white-men-get-to-play election, a curious development has occurred, where even the appearance of respect for the office has been displaced by a supreme lack of appropriate behavior by the people running. Believe me, I'm thrilled that the election of 2004 was the last of the all-white-men-only contests. What doesn't sit well with me is the degeneration of the contest into a fad-frenzied spinfest, centered totally around people and personalities, instead of on the offices for which they're campaigning.
Can any student of history imagine Lyndon Johnson winking and mugging at his audience? John Kennedy dodging questions from a moderator? Abraham Lincoln preserving the union with a "shout out" to his third grade elementary school? At what point do we reconcile a candidate's inappropriate behavior with his or her qualifications to hold office?
It's not terribly difficult to pick away at both candidates for their political views. But I'm not a political analyst. I'm a branding guy. And as anyone who knows me can tell you, I'm all about the perception that people, products -- and yes, politicians -- send out to their consuming public. A big part of that perception has to do with consistency and credibility. In other words, what you say has to jibe with the way you say it.
When you're second to the leader of the free world, people need to hear straight answers to the questions that are put to you, not those for which your media trainer has coached you. When your finger is one heartbeat away from the button, people need to know that you've got something more than a wink and wisecrack driving your decisions.
When you're staring down Iranians, Russians and North Koreans, light-hearted references to Joe Sixpack don't quite cut it.
Personally, I think it's great that the election of 2008 broke the white/male barrier into a million little pieces. And I'm glad that a conservative Senator like John McCain considered a woman to be his running mate. Too bad McCain chose the wrong woman without considering her public perception.
It will likely prove to be the deciding factor in race...the losing one, of course.