Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Unfortunately, it looks like I might be right...

For years one of the soap boxes I climb onto periodically is the popularity box. I can wax barely-eloquently on the history of elections in modern times. It has become a popularity contest.

It's not what a candidate will do, it's not their record, it's not much of anything to do with substance. It's how well you come across on television and whether people like you.

Mike Huckabee is moving up in the polls across the country. Yet folks like Rush Limbaugh are trashing his past performance as a governor and the stances he's espousing.

It's those cute dimples and engaging smile. It's his sense of humor. It's his comfortable personality.

Barack Obama? He's likable, speaks well, and again, he has a comfortable personality.

Remember the polls asking people "who would you most like to sit down to dinner with", "invite to your home" and similar in past elections? We know who'd win those contests in this election.

I think the reason popularity plays such a large part in who we elect is that we discount the attacks (just politics), we get overwhelmed with all the facts being tossed at us if we're paying attention, and, for many, all they see is an occasional snippet about the various candidates on television.

A large percentage of voters will never visit all of the candidates websites for comparison. They will never do an in-depth look at a candidate. All they'll see are commercials as the time gets closer to vote, a sound bite or two on a news program and maybe a mailer (which may go straight into the trash).

It's become all about connecting.

Yes, popularity can be fleeting. If our intrepid well-liked candidate makes a bad misstep and it's a slow media day, they're toast. Candidates have lost their popularity simply by climbing on a vehicle and putting on a helmet that made them look dorky. Or screaming.

I know, I know, there are other gaffs they can make that have to do with policy, with things that matter. Substance can take them down on occasion. But it's tough to do that if the media likes 'em. If the media isn't willing to disseminate the info, we may never hear about it.

We'll see what happens as the election process continues.

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