May 24th, 2012
08:34 PM ET

Letters to the President #1221: 'Holding an edge?'

Reporter's Note: I don’t know if President Obama plays chess. I’m pretty sure even if he does that I could beat him, but you never know…

Dear Mr. President,

I realize that sometimes I talk about chess too much. To be honest, I talk about it more than I play these days; just can’t seem to find the time. But perhaps my loquaciousness on the subject is driven by not merely the game but also by the lessons it teaches.

Here is one of my favorites: If you have an advantage in a war of attrition, just keep fighting.

I had a good chess playing partner some years ago, and he always hated it when I managed to grab even the slightest advantage. He knew I would hold onto that extra pawn or knight like grim death, steadily trading pieces to clear the board, and grinding toward an end game; because I knew if I simply kept that small advantage…if I just kep ahead of him that little bit…by the end it would be huge and more than enough to win.

I mention it since I’ve noticed a fair number of polls lately that give you a small advantage over Mitt Romney at this point in the race. My advice, as it would be to any candidate of any stripe, is to cherish and nourish that small edge. Don’t be lured into trying to score a knockout, unless things change and you feel like you need it.

Because a win is a win is a win.

Some people may get all worked up over whether you win by a little or a lot, but neither you nor Mr. Romney ought to. Each of you must focus only on running a race that leads you to victory at the end, and a lot of times the key to that is not something big and bold, but rather a small advantage jealously guarded.

I hope all is well.

Write when you can.


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