Thingish Things

The Scarce Candidate

Written By: William F. B. O'Reilly - Oct• 23•11

George Washington Busy at Work

I’ve often wondered what would happen if a popular presidential candidate stopped showing up at events around the country, instead relying 100% on surrogates to extol his advantages.  “John Smith is qualified, busy — and he’s not a blow-hard.” That would be the essential message.

That’s the way campaigns were waged in the old days, when self-promotion was considered base. I’ve wondered if that can be revived. Could it add supreme gravitas to a candidacy, mystique even? I thought about that a lot during John McCain’s ill-fated presidential campaign, where the demands of constant travel showed his age more than anything else. While Barack Obama did card tricks with a tele-prompter, what if McCain had stayed in Washington or Arizona for the entire campaign and worked? (He did that for a week to his detriment; but it was done poorly.) 

The idea is probably preposterous: Candidates need to show up places to drive local news coverage, and funders want to see candidates in person at fundraisers.  But still, I love the idea — for the right candidate. (Mitch Daniels might be able to pull it off, for example.) 

I don’t think that candidate is Herman Cain.  He’s too unknown; he needs to beat the hustings as much as he can.  But I thought about the concept this morning again while reading this Salon story about Cain leading in Iowa polls, but not showing up in the state.  It is a paradox that has a lot of people scratching their heads.   

There is something to be said about the unseen celebrity. He grows stronger and taller with every non-appearance.  

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