Somewhere along the line someone taught Barack Hussein Obama how to sell. John McCain sorely needs a crash course on a better brand of salesmanship.
In state after state, Obama is proving himself to be a master at convincing Democratic voters that he, not Hillary Rodham Clinton, has what they want.
McCain’s sales technique is the inverse of that. He’s busy trying to convince Republican voters he’s a lot like what they are. He appears to be trying to join them, not to induce them to join him.
In the Nov. 5 general election, independent and cross-over voters will be the win-or-lose targets for both the Democratic and Republican parties. Neither party can win without attracting enough of them.
Even in the primaries, both Obama’s and McCain’s sales strategies are aimed also at independents and cross-overs. Obama’s is working. McCain’s is not.
Obama is offering the values – actually, the perceived values – that he represents. He’s saying, “This is what I stand for. This is what I’m offering you to believe in.” He’s gambling, rather safely, that his targeted audience will feel a strong enough sense of affinity to say, “Sounds good to me, so I’m with you.”
The fact Obama is vague and opaque as squishy mud — and getting away with it like gang-busters — is mighty testimony to just how ardently the people he is seeking to recruit hunger for “something” (apparently anything) to believe in.
While Obama is putting on such a persuasive sales presentation, McCain is trying an opposite approach, with results far-less impressive.
McCain is not saying, “This is what I stand for. This is what I’m offering you to believe in.” He’s not inviting them to reply, “Makes common sense to me, so I’m with you.”
Instead, he’s endeavoring to mute or fuzz over what conservative values he may stand for, or is perceived to stand for, while encouraging independents and cross-overs to believe he’s with them, and has been all along.
Not a hard argument for him to make, for he has certainly stood with them on a number of liberal issues.
It’s a weird, self-negating, potentially self-defeating, contradictory message. McCain is saying, in effect, “I’m almost more like you than I am like myself.”
That is the crux of his frankly avowed strategy of being able to appeal to enough independents and cross-overs to defeat the Democratic nominee.
Put yourself in the mind-set of independents and cross-overs. Which sales approach works best for you, Obama’s or McCain’s?
If you lean to the conservative side, and aren’t exactly jumping for joy over what you’ve had the past eight years, Obama isn’t offering the same, or more of it. He’s offering you something, whatever that is, that’s different.
If you lean to the liberal side, and would like to jump for joy over the return of liberal policies you’ve not seen enough of the past eight years, McCain is giving you signals that he feels your pain and can provide a measure of relief. But why vote for partial relief when you can get the full Monty from whichever Democratic nominee it might be?
Put on the cloak of an unswerving, long-term Democratic voter. Does the message you are hearing from Obama make you nervous, disappoint you to the point that you might just sit out the November election? Don’t be silly. You’re all juiced up, and can’t wait to vote Democratic.
Now, look at things through the eyes of a never-say-die, conservative Republican voter. Unlike Democratic voters, you’re being asked to support a nominee who has definitely not been on your side all along. How much pain relief do you expect from McCain?
Biggest thing the McCain sales pitch is offering you is a way to express fear and loathing for all that either Democratic nominee will surely bring. You’re not being offered from McCain – at least so far in this campaign – anything fundamentally positive to warrant your vote.
Granted, what the Democratic nominee will offer is pie-in-the-sky, platitudinous optimism. At least that’s not negative.
To win in November, McCain doesn’t have to sell castor oil. Why should the conservative message be such a horse pill to gulp? Why can’t McCain act at least half-way like he’s happy being a conservative, instead of gritting his teeth?
The conservative message is a great message, worthy of being heard and, if presented accurately and with enthusiasm, carried to victory in November.
McCain isn’t going to get past second base if he pitches conservatism because it’s good for you, so hold your nose and swallow.
What makes conservative policies worthy of support is not just that they are conservative but that they make common sense. Every single conservative policy can be demonstrated to flow from good, old-fashion common sense.
If something makes common sense, McCain should be for it without blushing. If it doesn’t, he shouldn’t touch it with a 10-foot pole.
Most voters either are motivated by common sense or say they are. They need to be shown how conservative policies make common sense – to them.
The moment anyone says that about a single liberal policy, people start snickering. Here’s a challenge McCain could offer: Show how even one liberal policy makes common sense.
A common-sense McCain, if such exists, can turn his inadequate sales pitch upside down into victory if he stops reminding those on the left that he’s been on their side all along and sets out to convince them he has the better product — common sense.
He will lose not a conservative vote with that, and he will bring into his embrace those independent and cross-over voters who can smell the difference between platitudes and common sense.
The art to selling is selling, not buying into the competition’s product.
Before giving up altogether on John McCain, conservatives should grant him a fair chance to show he can sell. He’s been handed the best product there is.
John L. Perry, a prize-winning newspaper editor and writer who served on White House staffs of two presidents, is a regular columnist for Newsmax.com.
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