Success and tenacity go hand in hand.
Dave Cunningham / October 6, 2008
The second presidential debate is tomorrow night. If things go as expected, McCain will attack Obama’s character and readiness for office. Obama will appear calm and controlled while criticizing McCain’s erratic response to the banking crisis and questioning his judgment.
Watching Barack Obama at the first debate, I was struck by his intelligence, command of the issues and his confident demeanor. Yet, with all that going, he was not connecting with me. My son called me from New York during the debate to say that whoever was responsible for Barack’s debate prep should be fired.
Too many pundits have already said, and I agree, he looked “presidential”, particularly next to John McCain who sometimes looked confused and tired. But if we haven’t learned anything else in the past two elections, we know that these are not the qualities for which Americans vote.
Although we want a smart person in the presidency, someone who, like Bill Clinton can address many topics with a sense of understanding and direction, we also want someone we can like. We want someone who can address international leaders with courage and insight while also being a regular guy.
So what should Obama do? Two things, smile and emote. It’s not enough to be the smartest kid in the class. He has to look like he’s having a good time. Smiling will go a long way. We’ve all seen it before. It’s electric. He smiles and lights up the room. Secondly, insert some passion into his words. Laugh, cry, get angry, anything to emphasize that he genuinely cares about what he is saying. Americans will follow someone with passion. If there is any question about that, look at the celebrity of Sarah Palin, a woman with little experience and, beyond being a quick study of talking points, lacking in knowledge in many areas, remains popular because she is enjoying herself. Perhaps former President Clinton said it best when he said people would rather follow someone who is wrong and strong than right and weak.
Quoting an old adage, “people don’t care what you know until they know that you care.” Barack, if you want to lead, stop telling us and show us. It will push you over the top.
John McCain showed up for the last debate prepared to be skewered. He did his best to avoid having to debate at all with his transparently political announcement of suspending his campaign to attend to the economic crisis back in Washington D.C. He appeared more comfortable as the debate progressed. He was clearly in control of his thoughts and words. But in the end, the pundits gave it to Obama for being more presidential. McCain did not connect with a convincing message.
What McCain needs to do is to establish himself as the more experienced, therefore stronger choice. He has to remind Americans that with a likely Democratic House and Senate, he will provide the balance needed to avoid a runaway train of liberal taxing and spending. How can he do it? With the “straight talk” that has defined him in the past, about himself and his accomplishments. He can cite examples that demonstrate the maverick credentials that he has earned. He can talk about specific times when he reached across the aisle in a bipartisan manner to get things done. He can provide details of instances when he bucked the system, including his own party to act on behalf of Americans over special interests.
It is time for McCain to be the McCain that we knew in the Republican primaries, running against George W Bush in 2000. He must get back to being the guy who understands Washington, DC and will use his knowledge of the workings of government to deal with two wars and the economy within the context of the political landscape in which solutions to these issues will play out.
You have done it before. You know you can do it again. We need to be convinced that you and only you can deliver. You need to make your case. EXPERIENCE, EXPERIENCE, EXPERIENCE! This might be your last chance.