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Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Endless Debating Season

"Labor to keep alive in your breast that little spark of celestial fire called conscience." — George Washington.

With the football season drawing to a close as we approach Super Bowl Sunday the political debating season goes on and on and on. As the debating season goes on the four candidates for the Republican presidential nomination is culled to four — Gingrich, Romney, Santorum and Paul. These four have been winnowed down from the original ten (Bachmann, Perry, Huntsman, Johnson, Pawlenty, and Cane). This is like an Agatha Christie novel (And Then There Were None).

The latest South Carolina Primary was a complete surprise to the Republican establishment with Gingrich winning by 14 points and taking 41% of the votes and delegates.

Newt Gingrich won South Carolina big. If you had bet me last Monday morning you would own my house, my car and my cat. I thought Romney had a lock on South Carolina. But, this last week was the best political week for a major candidate I have ever seen. It was all Newt. Newt's performance in last Monday's debate was so good that every candidate for any office, prepping for a debate, should be forced to watch it and learn from it. On Thursday, Newt knew he was going to have to answer a question about his ex-wife's allegations. You know all about that. Newt went back to his early-debate tactic of attacking the question and the questioner — in this case CNN's John King — and he didn't just wipe the issue off as a negative, he turned it into a major positive. Outside of Hogwart's that's a piece of political magic I would not have believed possible. This last week was also the worst political week for a major candidate I have ever seen — not counting weeks that included a woman claiming sexual harassment. It was all Mitt. In Monday's debate Romney got involved in an argument with Rick Santorum over voting rights for felons. Voting rights for felons? And Santorum did pretty well. Then Romney stumbled over another question about his taxes and his company, Bain Capital, and he more-or-less played to a draw. Romney has the political infrastructure and the money to be able to operate in multiple states at the same time. ... But ... Romney has to make it happen."

Newt Gingrich routed Mitt Romney in South Carolina because he routed the media first. A Public Policy Polling survey of likely South Carolina primary voters completed on Friday revealed that 77 percent said they had an unfavorable opinion of the media. Among the most conservative South Carolina primary voters, fully 89 percent had an unfavorable opinion of the media. The same poll showed Gingrich beating Romney in the primary, 37 percent to 28 percent — fairly close to the actual outcome. Conservatives not only resent the liberal media for trying to pick the Republican nominee but they also resent Republican politicians who, once elected, spend their careers appeasing the media while abandoning conservative principles. Conservatives want a president whose attitude toward the media matches the attitude Gingrich has shown in recent debates. A president with that kind of attitude, they hope, might actually govern as a conservative.

Newt played rough in South Carolina and won big. That ought to tell the GOP something. Romney has to learn from this stunning defeat: The base is itching for a fight with everything the Obama Democrats stand for and they don't much care who gives it to them, just as long as somebody does.

Romney needs to show some passion for the winning the presidency. Politics is not the same as a board meeting where you sit around being polite and reviewing balance sheets and reports. It’s about getting people to vote for you and energizing them to work for your election. Both Romney and Gingrich need to lay off the beating on each other and focus on Obama.

I do not want to hear about Romney’s taxes and Newt’s consulting. I do not want to hear about how many jobs Romney created or how Gingrich work with Reagan to create jobs. This is all past and part of their résumés. This stuff can be used to attest to the candidate’s bona fides and experience. While necessary to get in the game it is not what the electorate wants to hear over and over again.

One of my main jobs while working for a consulting engineering firm was to obtain contracts for our services. This was always a two-step process. Step one consisted of preparing a package of something called a statement of qualifications. This SOQ usually contained résumés and curriculum vitaes of the key personnel that would make up the team, related project experience sheets, and information on the stability of the firm. This SOQ would be reviewed by a potential client. After the client review a short list would be compiled of the qualified firm.

Step two, and the most important step, would be the oral interview. This is what would allow the client to select the firm and team they wanted to work with on the project. It was during this oral interview where the consulting firm presented the key team members and explained how they would approach the client’s project and extoll the benefits of that the consulting team would bring the client. It was also a time where the client would question the consultant team on their concerns.

During this presentation you did not rehash the SOQ. The client had the written document sitting before them. They already had reviewed you qualifications and invited you for the interview. If they had questions regarding the SOQ they would ask them during the Q&A portion of the interview.

The client’s panel wanted to hear and see three things in order to make their selection. The first thing they wanted to hear was how you would approach their project. What was you plan. How would you work as a team and interface with the client’s project manager. The second thing they wanted to hear was what each team member would do and what benefit they would bring to the client. And the third thing they wanted to hear was some passion for the project. To the client the project is a big deal. They are spending a lot of money and they want to be successful. They want to hire a team that is as dedicated to their project as they are.

It time for the Republican candidates to move to step two. They already have their qualifications on the record. This constant hammering on each other’s qualifications is only creating fodder for the Democrats. Some experts claim this is a tempering process for the candidates to prepare them for Obama’s onslaught in the fall. While this may be true and the candidates will no doubt face a vicious attack from Obama’s minions and his left-wing press all of the tempering in the world will not armor them against these attacks. They will come no matter how tempered they are.

Ideas and the philosophies of governance will go further than resume experience. John McCain hammered on his experience and lost because he did not show a passion for the job and really had no firm plan for his presidency. On the other hand Obama had no experience and focused on one theme — hope and change.

It’s time to begin taking on Obama issue by issue and laying out their philosophy on governance and how they will begin to turn this ship of state back to constitutional government and allow the citizens of this nation to pursue life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness without the government telling us we need to live or lives and control our property.

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