Which presidential candidate could you see yourself having a beer with? I’m sure this isn’t the first time you’ve been asked this question. It’s posed in almost every election; the 2012 presidential race is no exception.
In recent weeks, Herman Cain has soared in the polls, surpassing Mitt Romney and assuming the top spot in the GOP field. The CBS News/New York Times poll released Tuesday shows Herman Cain beating Mitt Romney by four percent.
How did the former Godfather’s Pizza CEO climb more than 20 percentage points in one month? In large part, it was due to his likability. Herman Cain is the good ole’ boy who tells voters, “America’s got to learn to take a joke.” It’s easy to picture him kicking his feet up, popping a bottle cap and enjoying a cold one with the boys.
This friendly image materializes in the polls. A CNN/ORC International poll taken in mid-October reveals that 34 percent of Republican voters think Cain is the most likeable candidate in the GOP field, while only 29 percent think the same of Romney. And poll after poll reveals humor as a factor in Cain’s meteoric rise. But the CNN/ORC International poll also found that 51 percent of Republican voters see Romney as the most electable candidate in the GOP field, while only 18 percent view Cain that way. In other words, some voters are sacrificing electability for likability.
This is nothing new. Likability has always been a factor; it was for Clinton, Bush and Obama. Clinton’s charming and captivating personality, Bush’s Southern drawl and cowboy persona, and Obama’s inspiring magnetism lured voters to cast their ballots in their favor.
But leaders with good personalities don’t always produce good policies. Having the ability to inspire a crowd and connect with voters doesn’t mean a person has the skills to appease those same voters once in office. Take President Obama, for example. Nearly 8 in 10 people still consider the president likeable even though his job approval rating is at an abominable 41 percent.
So should we care if our president is likeable? When asked what qualities matter in a president, shouldn’t we be more concerned with innovation, intelligence, perseverance and discernment? Likeability would be last on my list. Sure, it’s an added bonus, but certainly not a requirement.
The presidential race should not be a battle of personalities. Sometimes the race seems more like “American Idol,” with people voting off the candidates who least strike their fancy. But the race for our nation’s highest office should be about skill sets and qualifications, not entertainment and amusement.
If you think a candidate is electable and has the adeptness to be president, that’s one thing. Elect him for these factors, not because he’s likeable. When choosing the president of the United States and the leader of the free world, your desire to have a beer with a candidate should be your last concern. Let’s keep our president in the Oval Office and out of the bars.
Kayleigh McEnany is the founder of RealReaganConservative.com. She is a graduate of Georgetown’s School of Foreign Service and has studied at Oxford University.