The Fringe, Part 5
Presidential candidates you've never heard of.
Updated Friday, Oct. 26, 2007, at 6:05 PM
Et tu, Rudy?
Barack Obama, playing off Giuliani's gaffe, told a Boston crowd he was a "principled sports fan" and supported the White Sox. But candidates should really avoid talking about sports altogether. For one thing, you're not likely to win votes from the people whose teams you praise. If anything, it comes off as pandering. But also, even a hint of ambiguity—the least bit of waffling—amounts to heresy. Giuliani's situational Red Sox fandom makes Romney's abortion flip-flopping look forgivable. He might as well have said he'd ask his lawyers. Let this be a lesson: Baseball is the one issue on which you can't be moderate. Giuliani picked the wrong time to act like one.
Taking care of business: If Mitt Romney is elected, he'll be the real MBA president. That's what you're supposed to take away from his latest ad, "Business World," in which he promises to "audit Washington top to bottom and cut spending." He did it at the 2002 Olympics, he did it as governor of Massachusetts (he doesn't mention the state by name), and he'll do it again as commander in chief. Need proof? Look, he's shaking hands with people. Now he's pointing to some charts. OK, there's the sleeve roll-up. Can you feel the synergy? Have a look:
The efficiency spiel is what fiscal conservatives want to hear, and Romney smoothly works it into his "change begins with us" theme. But it also reinforces perceptions of Romney as MR-1000, the kindly autobot whose CPU needs recharging every night. He has a knack for making warm themes sound cold. At last week's Family Research Council conference, he stressed that "family is a vital economic unit." Well, yes, but that's probably not how values voters think of their spouses and children. It's no surprise Ann Romney was the one narrating the campaign's family-themed ad "Our Home."
You also have to wonder whether a résumé built on business acumen is any match for one built on crime-fighting and security, like Rudy Giuliani's. (According to their messages, at least.) Does anyone care deeply that Romney saved the Olympics? It was a major accomplishment, by all accounts, and earned him plaudits from businessmen and politicians alike. But when you say it over and over, it starts to sound like Fred Thompson ushering John Roberts through the confirmation process—an accomplishment John Dickerson called "the legal equivalent of walking Michael Jordan onto the court." Compared to Giuliani at Ground Zero, Romney in the board room isn't the most compelling image. At the FRC conference, the day after Romney spoke, conservative leader Bill Bennett urged voters to listen to their hearts. If Romney is lucky, they'll stick with their heads.
Oct. 23, 2007
Will Rogers: It's been a week since Stephen Colbert announced his presidential candidacy on his show (video here), and he's already attracted enough media attention to make a second-tier candidates steam. He has guest written a column for the Times, received legal advice, and even inspired a campaign strategy drawn up by the Atlantic's Josh Green. But instead of the usual Is he or isn't he? game of presidential bids, it's more like Is he or isn't he serious?
A few people have compared Colbert's candidacy to that of Pat Paulsen, the comedian who ran on the Straight-Talking American Government ticket in 1968 with the promise that "If elected, I will win." But Paulsen wasn't the first, either. Back in 1928, humorist Will Rogers announced his presidential bid on the "Anti-Bunk Party" ticket in a column for Life magazine. His campaign promise was essentially the opposite of Paulsen's: If elected, he would resign. He later challenged Herbert Hoover to a joint debate "in any joint you name."
Christopher Beam is a writer living in Beijing.
Photographs of: Cap Fendig courtesy Cap Fendig; screenshot of The Huffington Post.