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Designing the Ideal Presidential Candidate

There is a truism in consumer product marketing that it is easier to find out what people want and make it for them than to make what you want to make and go find customers for it. Similarly in politics, with the Republican field being so wide open there is an opportunity to start with what the customers want rather than what some Party or campaign machine wants to sell. Let’s paint some broad swaths.

It is too simplistic to think that voters always want a change after eight years, but the tendency to change parties is striking. Since World War II there have been eight changes of party in presidential elections and only three transitions within the party. One of the three continuity transitions was forced - Johnson succeeded the assasinated Kennedy and was himself reelected once. (Ford succeeded the disgraced incumbent Nixon and lost on his own.) Only Truman and George HW Bush were elected to succeed an incumbent of their own party – the unusually popular Roosevelt and Reagan. Everything being nearly equal, the tie goes to the challenger party.

According to Real Clear Politics’ average,  President Obama’s approvals declined from 65% to 48% in his first year, bounced along until a peak of 53% for the 2012 election, and have since dropped to about 43%, as Rasmussen’s “wrong track” has generally hovered around 60%. The reasons for the decline contain the fodder for not only Republican campaign themes, but also for defining the ideal candidate, at least in terms of probability of success. For explanations, lets try (1) a stagnant economy with record low labor participation rate four and a half years years after the Great Recession officially ended; (2) a vapid foreign policy characterized by withdrawal from world leadership; (3) pitiful managerial ability painfully demonstrated by Obamacare, the runaway NSA, Fast and Furious, Benghazi, and on and on. (The Left would agree, but point to immigration reform, accountability for Wall Street, and global warming.)  Blame comes slowly, but even left-wing publications now frequently agree with the shape of the facts.

So, the Republican candidate biography:

- Executive experience. Probably a governor, possibly a military or business leader. We’ve had two terms with a junior senator with no experience with hiring and holding staff accountable (Sibelius; IRS; Benghazi), making difficult trade-offs (trillion dollar deficits without actual budgets), and making hard decisions (Afghanistan; Syria; Keystone Pipeline).

- Personal qualities. Intelligence – at least enough to manage subordinates in a complex, unpredictable world. Integrity – if somebody tells you that you can keep your doctor, you’d better be able to keep your doctor. Gravitas – the inate tendency to be taken seriously. (Democrats would want some demographics; for Republicans, not so much.)

- Attitudes. Belief that the United States is exceptional in world history in terms of liberty and opportunity – as well as wealth and power – and a necessary force for good in the world. It is hard to understand how we elected someone who didn’t share these convictions, and we cannot affort to make that same mistake again.

- Policies. Clear, consistent positions on the things that Middle America considers to be the most important.

– Domestically, a focus on getting people back to work rather than victimhood. The winner will be able to articulate how tax policy, regulatory reform, and education can drive American competitiveness and mass prosperity in the 21st Century.

– Internationally, rebuilding of the alliances that led to a prosperous and secure world for 60 years. The “do do rule” must be restored – what we say we will do, we do do.

With Reince Priebus sending out surveys asking for preferences among 32 potential candidates (oh, and asking for donations), it is helpful to start with the criteria, rather than the state of Chris Cristie’s problems. With a bit of subjectivity in fitting potential candidates to the above criteria, the shopping list includes Jeb Bush, Chris Cristie, Bobby Jindal, John Kasich, Rick Perry, and Scott Walker with a potential VP nod to Nikki Haley and Susana Martinez. Any non-governor will have a large hill to climb.

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This week’s video presents a sobering perspective of America’s immigration policies and world poverty.

www.RightinSanFrancisco.com - 1/24/14

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