One alternative to the permanent campaign: More substance
In some regards, of course, there’s no avoiding the permanent campaign that modern politics has become. Especially when lots of individuals and corporations with fat wallets are willing to underwrite it, there’s not much a body can do about the endless, manipulative TV ads except change the channel.
That said, the notion that Gov. McCrory’s team is already revving up a TV campaign (and, frankly, not a very good one) to spruce up his badly battered image just eight months into his governorship does serve to highlight something very important that is missing from McCrory’s performance thus far: substance.
As we have noted in this space before, the Governor is a seemingly affable guy who can even display refreshing flashes of self-deprecation and humility on occasion. What he has failed to display during his first several months in office, however, is a real ability to immerse himself in complex subjects, master them and then translate that mastery into a consistent and persuasive message that resonates with the public.
For whatever reason, he just doesn’t seem all there. From the failures to remember the names and pronunciations of the people that work for him to the improvised and constantly shifting explanations for administration gaffes to the inability to lead his own party to the obvious failures to absorb the substance of numerous bills he’s signed into law, the Governor seems distracted and unfocused.
Sometimes, when you listen to him, it’s as if you’re listening to a reasonably smart college student who didn’t do the reading and is trying to get by on charm and guile.
Obviously, the Guv is not the first politician to suffer from this problem. Some manage to get around it by surrounding themselves with super-smart, super-prepared staffers who can make up for their bosses’ short attention spans. Unfortunately, this is another area in which McCrory has come up short.
So, not that anyone over in the mansion is probably interested in advice from a progressive critic, but if the man really wants to turn things around for himself, he would do well to forget about the hastily-produced and annoying TV ads and do two very hard, but very important things ASAP:
1) The Guv should read more and become more of a policy wonk. He needs to get past the sound bites and really become the best-informed person in his administration on at least a couple of major subjects. As anyone who has ever lobbied the General Assembly can attest, there’s simply no substitute for knowing your subject better than your adversaries. McCrroy clearly is not there yet.
2) He needs to hire better help. This means ditching the reliance on far right ideologues and campaign flaks. The governor needs to hire more seasoned, professional public administrators — serious and experienced people who have worked in government and believe in it. This doesn’t mean they can’t be conservative, but they need to have significant relevant experience in managing a bureaucracy and the gravitas to be able to tell him when he’s full of baloney.
The bottom line: It’s still early in the Governor’s term — he can turn things around politically. But so long as his strategy for doing so is simply to ratchet up the spin, don’t look for him to be very effective.