March 25th, 2014 // 2:34 pm @ Oliver DeMille
Choosing a Candidate
“Americans elect the ‘cool’ candidate as president in the Entertainment Age. Carter was more cool than Ford, Reagan was cooler than Carter and Mondale, Bush I was cooler than Dukakis but not as cool as Clinton, Clinton was cooler than Dole, Bush II was more cool than Gore and Kerry, and Obama was cooler than McCain and Romney.
“A simple ‘cool’ test (who is more likely to sing, dance, play the saxophone, fuel high school ambitions in the youth, etc.) would have accurately predicted every one of these elections. It’s high school musical at the White House. As for the 2016 presidential election, no potential candidate so far is nearly as ‘cool’ to a majority of the national electorate as Hillary Clinton. Nobody is even close.”
This thought touched a chord with many, and I’ve been asked to elaborate on it. So here goes.
The electorate wants a cool president, but one with at least a little experience in government. If Republicans are going to win the White House in 2016, they need a cool candidate — cooler than Hillary Clinton.
The 2016 Players
There is precedent for things moving quickly in presidential politics. Barack Obama wasn’t even on the national scene until 2005, three years before he won the presidency in 2008. Whoever can beat Clinton in 2016, needs to be elected to high office in 2014 (or before).
Some people think that one of the current Republican Governors or Senators can win in 2016, but no candidate has risen to a level of cool that will compete with Clinton.
Some conservatives try to deal with this by arguing that the electorate should change the way it chooses a president—and I agree—but this isn’t likely.
In current America, the “coolest” candidate will win. To date, the Republicans have nobody really cool in this sense.
By the way, a candidate doesn’t have to be actually cool, just cooler than the opponent. And Hillary Clinton is the standard for 2016. Arne Duncan is a close second for Democratic cool, with Timothy Shriver just behind.
That’s three Democrats that are cooler than any known Republican right now.
To get more specific, in the current electorate, winning the White House means being seen as the most cool candidate by women, Latinos, and independents. Rand Paul, Paul Ryan, and Sarah Palin are considered cool by many independents. Just as many independents like Hillary, however, and she also polls higher with Latinos and women.
Extreme Makeover: White House Edition
Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush are considered cool by many Latinos, but not as cool as Clinton, and Hillary leads among women and independents. Chris Christie, Bobby Jindal, Scott Walker, and Mitt Romney are behind Clinton in all three of these swing groups.
The entire list of Republican potentials is seen as less cool than Hillary. If Republicans want to have any chance in 2016, either some new face needs to rise in 2014, or a past leader who can project as genuinely cool needs to effectively re-enter the fray.
For example, Scott Brown might be able to pull it off. Condoleezza Rice might compete well with Clinton, if she could get through the Republican primaries (she won’t).
Jon Huntsman might present himself as cool—more dirt bike and less boring policy wonk—but he’d need a public makeover. A lot of those listed above, including Rand Paul, will need such a makeover if they want to compete with Hillary. Ben Carson or any other newcomer would have to act now.
It’s way too early to call a national election, of course, but if Republicans don’t raise up a cool leader in 2014 who can compete for the White House in 2016, the executive election is all but over already.
Since this person hasn’t yet caught the national attention, 2014 is the last chance for them to win an election.
Oliver DeMille is the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and USA Today bestselling co-author of LeaderShift: A Call for Americans to Finally Stand Up and Lead, the co-founder of the Center for Social Leadership, and a co-creator of TJEd.
Among many other works, he is the author of A Thomas Jefferson Education: Teaching a Generation of Leaders for the 21st Century, The Coming Aristocracy, and FreedomShift: 3 Choices to Reclaim America’s Destiny.
Oliver is dedicated to promoting freedom through leadership education. He and his wife Rachel are raising their eight children in Cedar City, Utah.