Reporter's Note: The Republicans are growing more serious about selecting a candidate to run against President Obama. I, on the other hand, remain precisely as serious today about writing letters to the White House as I was yesterday.
Dear Mr. President,
The Republicans are assembling in New Hampshire for their first big debate, and I am headed that way, too. I know that most of the country is, at best, only mildly interested in the 2012 presidential race at this point. (At worst, they are rolling their eyes and saying, “Oh no, not again!”) Still, it is interesting to watch how these contests shape up.
Since you’ve only been in one yourself, and you’re facing your first re-election bid, let me share some pointers that I would give to any contender.
(1) Be patient: Staking out a claim too early on what your “big issues” are going to be is a rookie mistake. Remember how everyone was convinced the last election was going to be about Iraq, only to see the economy roar up to seize the stage?
(2) Shoot straight: I know that the political pros in D.C. have a million different ways of parsing out every message, and controlling every reaction, and essentially trying to turn candidates into little more than breathing versions of those Disneyland animatronic presidents. Especially now, I think people are just tired of having things sold to them. As much as you can, say what you mean and mean what you say; I think people will respect that even if they disagree with your policies.
(3) Worry about your game plan, not the other guy’s: If you react to everything your opponent does, you let him (or her) determine the entire tempo of the game - and then the only reaction that will matter is yours when he takes the oath instead of you.
(4) Do not underestimate your opposition: There is no surer way to expose yourself to defeat than by assuming you can’t be beaten.
(5) Run like you have something to prove: Frankly, considering your poll numbers and the state of the economy, you do.
Anyway, I need to pack a few things and head to the airport shortly. Call if you get a moment.
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