Sunday, September 26, 2010

Fiorina: Take a Stand, or Lose!!

As a conservative in California, this summer, while the Tea Party ferment gained force, I witnessed Republican senate candidate Carly Fiorina's momentum build against the Democrat incumbent, Barbara Boxer... but now, unfortunately, I see it slipping away.

This shouldn't be happening in the face of this conservative electoral tidal wave!  

But it is happening, and I'll tell you why, and what she needs to do (especially with advertising) to turn it around.

To be BRUTALLY HONEST, and I know that she has been through some things, and has shown a lot of courage in fighting off cancer, so I so much hate to say this, but she is losing because, to the casual observer, 1) she is perceived as relatively unappealing personally (pipsqueaky), and 2) she appears to have little in the way of a distinct ideology.

A typical voter is thinking "You know what... I don't particularly like her, and she hasn't given me a reason to support her on any particular issue, so I'll go the other way (Boxer)." 

There are two things we want to provide an antidote for. 1) the perception of being unappealing, and 2) the perception that she doesn't seem to hold any real, hard-edged views (ideology). It is as if she seems to have made an effort to wade into a kind of inconspicuous, out of the way, "middle of the road" place. Unfortunately, in doing this, she kind of just... disappears.

Before I give my "solution," the antidote, let me reference an article I read a couple years ago at It spoke of the role of perceived ideology (even if contrary to the ideology of the voter) in building trust with voters:

"A rational electorate is reluctant to support someone who does not exhibit commitment to some ideology," [USC economist] Carrillo says. "Voters rightly perceive that someone without ideological commitment cannot have developed a valuable political program...

Carrillo and Castanheira's paper is an important challenge to the widely accepted median voter theorem... To attract a majority of votes, parties cannot simply try to appear 'median.' Quite the contrary... [the candidate must take firm ideological stands (paraphrased)]."
To counter this perception of purposeful issue skirting, to build trust with voters of all stripes, she needs to go out of her way to visibly prickle some people (on the left, in this case) ideologically. Truly, without taking clear and visible stands, she runs the risk of even conservatives not being that motivated to vote for her.

I know that California is more blue than most. But this year almost all states, including California, are feeling a conservative wave. We know this. More importantly, Fiorina is a Republican, so if she doesn't do anything to indicate that she is a conservative, she will not gain the trust of the voters -- even among liberal voters.
Yes, she appears to be skirting the issues, to be purposely trying to keep a low ideological profile. On her website it is asked "Why Vote for Carly?" The answer:
"I believe big change requires leadership, innovative thinking, team work and tackling the most obvious problems first."
That is the reason to vote for her? What about the fury of the voters (from the right, center, and even the left) right now? What about Obamacare, the mosque, out of control spending, government intrusion in our lives etc etc! 

I click on the "Health Care" issues link, thinking there might be some commitment to something noted there, but instead I find a lot of small text, headed by simply "Focusing on Health Care." I think in there it is stated or implied that she wants to repeal Obamacare, but its fuzziness seems to be consistent with my sense of an effort to do an ideological dodge.
I'll tell you, one place where she will benefit from taking a clear, vocal stand is on Obamacare.

According to a recent poll, there is one issue that is paramount among independents, and that is Obamacare. 48% of independents said that, no matter what the candidate's positions on other issues, if the candidate didn't agree with them on the repeal of Obamacare, they would not vote for them under any circumstances. (Critically, from a candidate's perspective, for the most part, the passion of those supporting Obamacare is minimal, so she can safely come out forcefully for repeal.) Don't pull a Murkowski, and shake your head in confusion about all the health care complications. Just say "repeal it!"
As far as her latest, and first, general election ad... it is counterproductive. It sucks!  It needs to be summarily pulled from the airwaves immediately.

The "mudslinging" ad shows Boxer doing her infamous "don't call me Ma'am" performance, and then Fiorina comes on and implies that her reason for running is "to end the arrogance in Washington." 

Worst of all, she appears pipsqueaky.  And, nearly as bad, it jumps out at you like a sore thumb that she is saying absolutely nothing! And this is doubly troubling in that it reinforces the sense that she is not addressing any issues. Further, it might just elicit sympathy for Boxer's clearly unpremeditated gaffe.

The issue isn't "arrogance," for God's sake. The issue is the runaway, out of control government, and Boxer's premeditated, extreme support of it (and Fiorina's firm opposition). Say so.

Instead, for an ad(s), this is what she needs to do...

This is just a general sketch, giving a gist. She will be addressing with some degree of passion (and at least some, if not a lot, of rage) a Tea Party crowd (or its staged equivalent!), and will address some key issue(s).

That's it... in the ad she needs to be vibrantly addressing a crowd, with passion. And some fundamental issue has to stir her and everybody there. This can make her look big and attractive, DYNAMIC. She will appear to be with the people, all are indignant over the issue, and in tune with the times of discontent. Viewers of all ideologies, and especially conservatives and independents, will get a warm feeling, and they will like her, and will be ready to enthusiastically vote for her! 

Sure, she can field other ads that run down Boxer for her extreme liberalism. But this feel good ad, I think, would be key to quickly giving her a permanent lead. 

At this juncture, she needs to be with the rising Tea Party feeling. Even liberals have said they would like to feel and experience what the Tea Partiers are feeling. Two recent polls of note: according to CNN, 50% of voters would be more likely to vote for a Tea Party backed candidate, while only 33% would be less likely to (this is surprising, considering the tone of the MSM); further, 33% of African-American likely voters support the Tea Party (PJM poll). Appear to be with the times / people -- while Boxer is in the other camp.

And one other thing...

At this point, to counter the feeling that she is ideologically wishy-washy, and get some visibility in the face of the feeling of her simply fading away, she should, think up something to say or do that, regarding an issue, will get a decent amount of media attention. 

It is something that in fact should turn a few people off, but more importantly, the majority of the electorate will gain trust in her because of her clear ideological commitment.

Post  Note   There are almost certainly those that would point out that she has taken / stated definite positions on things. No doubt she has. But as a casual, and I think typical, observer, I haven't heard them. I, like most, didn't see the C-Span debates, except for some forgotten news snippets. (Actually, the only thing I remember is her saying that she "hasn't taken a position on Prop 23." [suspending draconian "climate disruption" regulations]) She hasn't put forth anything (position wise) that really gets attention -- on TV or on the web.