Politics is more an art than a science (witchcraft may be more accurate) — so it’s hard to quantify which candidates are doing the best job preparing to win the 2012 GOP nomination.
Money, of course, is an obvious metric, but aren’t there other predictors we might use?
A Republican friend named Ryan Streeter recently queried some respected “insiders and influencers,” asking them to rate likely 2012 GOP candidates. As a tool, he provided them with the following eight attributes to grade:
1. Being a reformer
2. Appeal to primary voters
3. Appeal to independent voters
4. Authentic, a straight shooter
5. A good speaker, able to command a crowd
6. Strong on policy
7. Good fundraiser
8. Possessing gravitas
The fact that Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, and Mitch Daniels ended up coming out on top of this exercise seems to underscore some failings. (Christie has said numerous times that he’s “not ready” to run, it appears unlikely that Jeb Bush will run, and Mitch Daniels has committed several gaffes, including calling for a “truce” on social issues).
Additionally, it is not clear to me that all eight attributes are, in fact, accurate predictors of electoral success.
Still, it was a fascinating idea. As such, I have decided to solicit your help in creating what I hope will be at least an interesting way for me to gauge which candidates are performing best.
Here’s my tentative list of attributes a winning candidate must possess (you will notice that some of these overlap a bit with Streeter’s list):
1. Raise Money (This is hard to quantify before candidates begin filing FEC reports, however, for now, we can likely predict a candidate’s ability to raise funds. For example, it’s probably safe to assume Mitt Romney won’t have any problems funding his campaign. Money, as they say, is the “mother’s milk” of politics.
2. Make The Right Hires (Having quality staffers, advisers, and consultants is key. Which candidates are rounding up the top talent? For example, Haley Barbour recently hired noted New Hampshire operative Mike Dennehy).
3. Use New Media (Increasingly “new media” is being incorporated into press operations, but having a campaign that effectively utilizes technology and can reach out to conservative bloggers is vital — especially when it comes to reaching conservatives in primaries. For example, Herman Cain recently held a blogger call, demonstrating he is serious about blogger outreach. Likewise, Sarah Palin can make things happen simply by sending out a Tweet).
4. Pass The “Beer” Test (Would you want to have a beer with him/her?)
5. Have Leadership/Gravitas (Likability is key, but not enough. You must imagine someone as president. Who are the “adults”? Who has the best leadership qualities?)
6. Demonstrate a Positive Image (The right candidate won’t reflect every negative stereotype of conservatives/Republicans.)
7. Pick the Right Fights/Avoid Stupid Gaffes (Picking the right fights can help a candidate generate good “buzz,” but stumbling can also cause trouble. A good candidate picks the right fights while avoiding the right pitfalls).
8. Be Part of The Three-Legged Stool (Does this candidate appeal to the disparate elements of the conservative coalition?)
9. Have Charisma (In the modern era, politicians simply must appeal to a TV audience. Additionally, retail politics is still vital in winning in states like Iowa and New Hampshire).
10. Have a Solid Philosophy (Not only is it important for a GOP primary candidate to have a strong command of policy — he or she simply must have a sound conservative philosophy in order to win the nomination. This overlaps a bit with the “three-legged stool” concept, but Rudy Giuliani, for example, simply could not win the Republican nomination based on his liberal positions on social issues).
As the campaign progresses, I will be periodically rating likely candidates. But before I do — do you believe these eight “attributes” are good predictors? What am I missing? (Feel free to comment below or Tweet me @mattklewis).