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January 7, 2008

Losing On Dull And Unconvincing On Competence

Roger Simon at the Politico attended two Democratic rallies in Nashua last night. The first left him inspired, and the second left him grasping for his No-Doz. Barack Obama had the crowd impressed, while Hillary Clinton had them sleepwalking for the exits:

Obama delivered a compelling, almost mesmerizing, speech, did not talk about any issue in detail and took no questions. His event lasted just over half an hour.

Clinton talked about issue after issue in almost mind-numbing detail and answered question after question in an event that lasted more than an hour and a half.

Both drew large crowds. But Clinton’s crowd was much smaller at the end of her speech than at the beginning.

Hundreds of people trickled and then streamed out while Clinton was still talking. But she went on and on as if she did not mind. And maybe she didn’t.

Hillary is selling competence, and competence doesn't inspire -- at least not the way she sells it. She has begun taking questions on the trail again, apparently to provide a contrast for the "readiness" factor, but she can't hold the crowd to get to the Q&A. Obama's skill on the stump leaves her sounding flat and, well, dull.

Can competence sound inspiring? Mitt Romney does a good job succeeding at that task. As most sales people will admit, the product is a secondary issue; salesmen sell themselves. If Obama sells hope better than Hillary sells competence, it's not because people value hope over competence but because they value Obama over Hillary. She simply doesn't inspire people, at least not in a positive sense.

Is this good? It's human nature. People outside of the so-called Soup Nazi's clientele like to buy from people they like and trust. They will want to follow leaders who can inspire affection and credibility, as Ronald Reagan proved, and that will provide them with Teflon when they make gaffes. When unlikable people trying to sell themselves as competent make mistakes -- like switching positions on drivers licenses for illegal aliens in 120 seconds, or criticizing a candidate for his kindergarten essays -- it challenges their only claim to consideration, and makes them much easier to discount quickly.

Hillary could only win if she made no mistakes at all. Instead, her "competence" claim has been fatally weakened by her campaign missteps. If Hillary can't demonstrate competence, why else would anyone want to vote for her?


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