The campaign strategy of staying out of sight

From a piece about Harry Reid’s difficult re-election campaign:

Reid has what some political strategists refer to as an “Al Gore problem.” It is widely believed that Gore would have won the 2000 campaign if he would have just stayed out of public view for the last two weeks of the campaign. But every time Gore would emerge into the spotlight, George W. Bush’s numbers would improve.

For an incumbent (or in Gore’s case, quasi-incumbent) who is not well-liked, visibility is the enemy.

via Today’s Power Play: Reid Withers in the Spotlight | Foxnews.com.

Would that more candidates would try that strategy of not making public appearances!  I suppose it would only work for incumbents, but still, not being visible would make many politicians more likable.  In the early days of our republic, presidential candidates would make a point of not campaigning, allowing their surrogates to do that for them.  It was considered undignified to appear in public asking people for their votes.  And it is undignified!

Can you think of other politicians, past or present, who might have “an Al Gore problem”?  I don’t want to bash them.  Let’s limit this to politicians who actually might be pretty good at their job, but simply don’t come across all that well.

About Gene Veith

Professor of Literature at Patrick Henry College, the Director of the Cranach Institute at Concordia Theological Seminary, a columnist for World Magazine and TableTalk, and the author of 18 books on different facets of Christianity & Culture.

  • SKPeterson

    This is hard. My bias is usually to look for the guys who come off well, but are actually pretty lousy. It’s much easier.

    I’ll pick Ford, though. Good man in a tough spot.

  • SKPeterson

    This is hard. My bias is usually to look for the guys who come off well, but are actually pretty lousy. It’s much easier.

    I’ll pick Ford, though. Good man in a tough spot.

  • rah

    Clayton Williams, a successful businessman, was very likely to win the 1990 Texas gubernatorial race until he made a series of last minute blunders, including a tasteless joke comparing rape to bad weather. If the man would have just stayed home or kept his mouth shut, he would have been easily elected and probably would have done a fair job as governor.

  • rah

    Clayton Williams, a successful businessman, was very likely to win the 1990 Texas gubernatorial race until he made a series of last minute blunders, including a tasteless joke comparing rape to bad weather. If the man would have just stayed home or kept his mouth shut, he would have been easily elected and probably would have done a fair job as governor.

  • http://RoseFremer@yahoo.com Rose

    McCain.

  • http://RoseFremer@yahoo.com Rose

    McCain.

  • Ken

    John Quincy Adams. Rarely has there been a more capable, prepared, experienced, and gifted man elected as President. But the debacle over the perceived dirty deal with Henry Clay crippled his presidency from the start. And he wasn’t a very effective communicator–sound familiar?

  • Ken

    John Quincy Adams. Rarely has there been a more capable, prepared, experienced, and gifted man elected as President. But the debacle over the perceived dirty deal with Henry Clay crippled his presidency from the start. And he wasn’t a very effective communicator–sound familiar?

  • DonS

    George W. Bush’s many campaign appearances in 2006 are widely believed to have worsened Republican losses in that cycle. Obama made the same mistake in this cycle. He is the problem, and should have stayed in the White House. He just has trouble understanding his change in status in two short years.

  • DonS

    George W. Bush’s many campaign appearances in 2006 are widely believed to have worsened Republican losses in that cycle. Obama made the same mistake in this cycle. He is the problem, and should have stayed in the White House. He just has trouble understanding his change in status in two short years.

  • http://www.semicolonblog.com Sherry

    Bob Dole.

  • http://www.semicolonblog.com Sherry

    Bob Dole.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Tommy Thompson.

  • http://www.geneveith.com Gene Veith

    Tommy Thompson.

  • kerner

    Personally, I think the difference in that election was Saturday Night Live. Darrell Hammond’s impression of Al Gore (“Laawwwk Baaawwwxx”) was so much more dead on and funny than Will Farrell’s impression of George W. Bush.

    After that, I couldn’t listen to Gore without laughing. It was probably also true for the young people who are SNL’s major demographic.

    In 2008, SNL didn’t make the same mistake. Darrell Hammond only impersonated Republicans like McCain and Dick Chaney. The guy who does the impression of Obama never made him look ridiculous once Obama had the nomination. Although he DID make Obama look bad when Hillary still had a chance.

    Evwn the Onion left Obama alone till after the elction.

  • kerner

    Personally, I think the difference in that election was Saturday Night Live. Darrell Hammond’s impression of Al Gore (“Laawwwk Baaawwwxx”) was so much more dead on and funny than Will Farrell’s impression of George W. Bush.

    After that, I couldn’t listen to Gore without laughing. It was probably also true for the young people who are SNL’s major demographic.

    In 2008, SNL didn’t make the same mistake. Darrell Hammond only impersonated Republicans like McCain and Dick Chaney. The guy who does the impression of Obama never made him look ridiculous once Obama had the nomination. Although he DID make Obama look bad when Hillary still had a chance.

    Evwn the Onion left Obama alone till after the elction.

  • Another Kerner

    Robert A. Taft.
    Senator from Ohio, lost the Republican nomination for the Party’s Presidential race to Dwight David Eisenhower in 1952.

  • Another Kerner

    Robert A. Taft.
    Senator from Ohio, lost the Republican nomination for the Party’s Presidential race to Dwight David Eisenhower in 1952.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    So Kerner (@8), you’re claiming that what made the difference in 2000 was … the youth vote? And not just the youth vote, but the SNL-watching youth vote? More specifically, those who though one impersonation on SNL was funnier than the other? I believe you are placing way more faith into SNL‘s ratings, as well as youth voting demographics, than is warranted.

    I do think yours is a fine example, though, of how the media loved loved loved to mock Al Gore, even making up lies about how he’d lied about this and that.

  • http://www.toddstadler.com/ tODD

    So Kerner (@8), you’re claiming that what made the difference in 2000 was … the youth vote? And not just the youth vote, but the SNL-watching youth vote? More specifically, those who though one impersonation on SNL was funnier than the other? I believe you are placing way more faith into SNL‘s ratings, as well as youth voting demographics, than is warranted.

    I do think yours is a fine example, though, of how the media loved loved loved to mock Al Gore, even making up lies about how he’d lied about this and that.

  • kerner

    tODD @10:

    Do I believe there were a enough bleary eyed 20-somethings in Gainesville, Jacksonville, and Ft. Lauterdale, who, having had so many laughs at Mr. Gore’s expense that they couldn’t get motivated to vote for him, stayed home and cost him the election in Florida?

    You bet I do. Remember, in 2000 it wouldn’t have taken that many to tip the scales.

  • kerner

    tODD @10:

    Do I believe there were a enough bleary eyed 20-somethings in Gainesville, Jacksonville, and Ft. Lauterdale, who, having had so many laughs at Mr. Gore’s expense that they couldn’t get motivated to vote for him, stayed home and cost him the election in Florida?

    You bet I do. Remember, in 2000 it wouldn’t have taken that many to tip the scales.

  • kerner

    Don’t underestimate the power of laughter, dude. (A little John Stewart lingo there)

  • kerner

    Don’t underestimate the power of laughter, dude. (A little John Stewart lingo there)

  • Kimberly

    Michelle Bachman

  • Kimberly

    Michelle Bachman

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Whoever is running against O’Donnell.

  • http://www.biblegateway.com/versions/Contemporary-English-Version-CEV-Bible/ sg

    Whoever is running against O’Donnell.


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