It appears that there is an invisible line in the world of political campaigning when the concern shifts from a candidate's likability, position on the issues, and experience to a more fundamental question of whether or not a candidate is electable. The February 26, 2008 issue of USA Today reports that presidential candidate Senator Barack Obama is now considered to be more electable than Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton. (Good news for one senator, bad news for the other.) Primary elections in Ohio and Texas will help clear up that issue, but for now, it is an intriguing point of discussion.
My concern here isn't over whether Obama, Clinton, McCain, Huckabee , Paul, or Nader (is that everyone?) should be the next President of the United States. My interest is in how people make decisions as evidenced by the collaboration (or collision) between principle and expediency during a presidential campaign. Call it a power compromise that leads to a critical point of choice--the moment when party is favored over preference, when people begin saying "I may not like everything about my candidate, but I like more about him/her than I like about the other party's candidate."
According to USA Today, the Democrats think Obama can beat McCain and the Republicans think McCain can beat Clinton. Late-to-the-party Ralph Nader hopes he can beat them all. When a contest becomes intense, strategy can easily become as important as substance. In a tight playoff game, the coach cares less about giving everyone a chance to play and gives more attention to what it takes to get a goal.
What would legendary coach Vince Lombardi say to this political blocking and tackling? Perhaps he'd say
- If winning isn't everything, why do they keep score?
- Show me a good loser and I'll show you a loser.
- We didn't lose the game; we just ran out of time.
Both Senator Obama and Senator Clinton hope they have enough time left to influence the decisions of thousand of people during the next week--to convince people that causes matter before conviction is asked to support a strategy over a person. Lombardi would tell us that's the moment when wining is no longer everything--it's the only thing.