Tuesday, November 06, 2007

The matter with Fred

What's up with Fred? This phrase is being uttered a lot lately, matter of fact I just heard it on local radio on the way home. And someone at work recently posed the question, "what will it take for Fred to gain traction"? My answer, "more hair". Perhaps a sneaky toupee application during the holidays is the answer, since in America, media perception means everything!

Actually, there's nothing wrong with Fred. Some think he's seriously in jeopardy of being fatally pigeon-holed as "lazy" by the professional political pigeon holers in the media, hardly more evident than this London Telegraph piece, which matter of factly states:
During a 20-minute, meandering speech, Mr Thompson – who has long been accused of being lazy - joked about rearranging his campaign schedule the previous evening so he could watch the New England Patriots play the Indianapolis Colts football game on television.
Imagine the media inserting the phrase "who has long been accused of being a liar" in a column on Hillary? That's part of the challenge Thompson faces.

But gasp, apparently even some in the GOP believe politicians should eat, sleep, drink and breathe politics, and if they don't it represents a character flaw or sheer laziness. Personally I want my president to have at least some interest in the Pats-Colts, thank you.

See, there's a difference between slow and being lazy. Some get that, some don't. The tag comes much easier for a big southern guy like Fred, since up north nobody is called "slow" unless they have a disability. Down south it's a way of life for many. As Thompson said at the debate, it's hard to look at his distinguished resume and call him lazy.

But the media is mighty powerful and they've already poured their sack of conventional wisdom concrete around Fred's feet like a newly set post hole. We know how most of the media votes. The best and only way to scuttle such a tactic is to make an end-run by generating a fan base, which comes from distinguishing himself to the voters by pointing out his conservative bedrock. He's starting to do this now.

But it's more than putting on the face. He's got to do a better job of perception management, such as with his newly resigned aide Phillip Martin. This area is a huge vulnerability so far. Too many folks have come and gone from Fred Central, perhaps perplexed themselves about his slow ways or perhaps showing an inability to pick the right people, which will be needed if he wins.

Whatever the case, Martin's departure tends to paint Thompson as a fat cat insider same as the rest, which is why Ron Paul raised 4+ million from the skulls o' mush on the internet (even though his foreign policy is a game of let's pretend). Fred is good with folksy ads, but it's doubtful one saying, "like most Americans, I too employ a few ex-felons in trouble with the IRS.." would go over too well. Even though Hillary was actually hob-nobbing with a Chinese felon with an outstanding warrant; and even though she's in favor of voting rights for ex-felons, it doesn't matter in perception world.

So, with the media loaded for Fred Bear, and Fred Bear himself perceived as not loaded for bear, perhaps he won't end up getting the nomination in the end. Voters may opt for a more "energetic" type like Mitt or Rudy despite their flip-flops. If Fred fails let's hope he does it on his own terms. After all, what's more nauseating than watching a candidate change their personality just to get elected?

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