Like it Or Not, Being a Likable Candidate is Likely Important

Observing the mini-brouhaha that surrounded Hillary Clinton’s interview with Terry Gross, it occurs to me that the Democrats had best be careful what they wish for.

The June 12 Fresh Air interview was largely a puff piece, your standard book-tour bit.  The questions asked begged for little past real-time excerpts from Clinton’s upcoming book.  This being not being Fox News, Clinton wasn’t once asked about Benghazi.  Nor was she asked about her two-day-old tone-deaf, Romney-esque comments to Diane Sawyer insinuating that, financially, she and her husband are really like just like you, Joe Sixpack and Rosie Riveter.  Though the questions were (at least to me) somewhat interesting, they were largely friendly when not being outright softballs:

“Was it good at some level that [Snowoden] started a conversation? … Can you talk a little bit about the experience of dealing with world leaders in countries where women basically have no rights? … So you’ve said, you know, that you’re not going to decide whether you’re going to run for president or not until the end of the year. And like a lot of people, I’m wondering, why would you even think about putting yourself through this? … Does the world look really different as secretary of state than it did as senator?”

The bit that got a bit of play, however, was the seven-minutes that dealt with Clinton’s “evolution” on gay marriage — and more specifically, her obvious annoyance that Gross would follow up non-answers with requests for clarification:

For those who do not have streaming capabilities, you can read why some people so many thought Clinton’s tone “testy” here — or, if you prefer, why Gross had no business not just nodding and agreeing with the nice woman who’d agreed to be her guest here.  For the purposes of this post, I’m not terribly interested in what Clinton believed when.  But I am interested in her electability, and so I’ll just say this: In one very important way, Clinton reminds me less of her husband than she does Newt Gingrich.

When you watch Bill talking to people one-on-one or in groups, you have a sense that he genuinely likes them — and that tends to make people genuinely like him right back.  When you watch Gingrich in interviews, however, you always have a sense that he’s barely holding back palpable contempt for whatever rube his handlers have forced him to have to deal with for 10 minutes — even when those people are his supporters. There are a small percentage of people who so crave predictable red meat that they lap up everything Newt says with gusto, but most everybody else — even most of his colleagues on the right — thinks he’s a complete asshole.  He’s a national landslide loss waiting to happen, should anyone ever be foolish enough to nominate him in the first place.

Unfortunately, Secretary Clinton comes off far closer to Gingrich than Bill.  If she can’t be bothered to reel in the “why must I suffer the plebes” attitude with Terry fishing Gross, that will spell trouble should she win the Dem’s nod.  There’s no question that with her connections, she’s likely to out-money anyone in her path in the primary.  But after that, I really do think she could join the ranks of Michael Dukakis, Al Gore and John Kerry — those three Democrats that lost winnable elections because the party was so sure any Democrat could beat such weak competition.  And when I think of who might come out f the GOP, I’m not sure that’s the kind of thing with which we should be screwing around.

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73 thoughts on “Like it Or Not, Being a Likable Candidate is Likely Important

  1. I would add that likability is relative based on the person and that the media can and often is complicit in the narrative about whether any particular candidate or person is likable or not.

    Let’s use GWB II as an example. I remember during one or both of his Presidential elections, the media dubbed that GWB II was the candidate that “you want to have a beer with.” My only thought upon hearing this (and I heard it numerous times) was “No. I don’t want to have a beer with Bush II. I don’t get why I am supposed to want to have a beer with Bush over Kerry or Gore.” Kerry and Gore seemed like they would be filled with really interesting anecdotes, stories, bon mots, and insights. I never got that impression from GWB II.

    Now I will agree that Obama and Bill Clinton are much more charismatic and likable than Gore or Kerry but I think Bill Clinton had a very rare level of charisma and charm. One that might not be matched by any politician in any party during my lifetime. Earl Warren, JFK, RFK, Ted Kennedy, and FDR are the only two other politicians I’ve heard of having Clinton or near-Clinton levels charisma and charm.

    In my mind, the media did sink Gore and Kerry a bit by going along with GOP talking points that labeled them as dry and aristocratic. The media could have speculated that Gore or Kerry would be really interesting to talk to at a bar for the reasons listed above.

    I don’t disagree with your overall thesis. Many politicians have lost nominations or elections from being too aloof and unlikable. I do disagree many times with the conventional wisdom definition of likable. I find it hard to like candidates from a party that would mock a triple amputee (Max Cleland in Georgia) or engage in the smear campaign against Kerry’s Vietnam service.

    There is always the spite the vote thesis though which theorizes that those strategies worked because many boomer voters deferred out of Vietnam and feel bad about it so they assuaged their guilt through bashing the Vets:

    http://nypress.com/spite-the-vote/

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    • I’m not really talking about the “beer with” thing. (Although if I were, I would point out that you are essentially making the same mistake the Democratic party did in 2004: “I’m sure once the People see his resume and his positions power-pointed out, they’ll see he’s they guy they’d rather have a beer with!”)

      And I don’t think being likable means any one thing. Reagan, Clinton, Obama, Justin Timberlake, that barista at your local Starbucks everyone loves and knows everyone’s name, the world is full of people that other people generally genuinely like, and they’re not all similar to one another.

      But there are certain behaviors that, by and large, just rub people the wrong way. That may or may not be fair, but it is. And the presidential election is, first and foremost, a giant national popularity contest. THere’s a reason why people like Larry Summers are appointed positions, not elected to them.

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    • I have had a beer with Kerry, on multiple occasions. (His brother was my neighbor.)

      He’s pretty awesome, listens very intently, and answers the question you asked. What was done to him — the whole swiftboat thing — was shameful. He’s a liberal; if you’re not a liberal, there’s plenty of things to disagree with him, there was no call to demean his service in Vietnam.

      And I think we’d be in such a better place if Gore had won. But I’ll remind people — if Katherine Harris hadn’t purged the voter roles, he probably would have won. They turned away thousands of legal voters because their names were similar to known felons from not only FL, but all the surrounding southern states; many times more voters then the difference between Bush and Gore. That, not the butterfly ballot, was the reason Jeb Bush promised to clean up FL election proceedings. Gore lost because thousands of blacks in the north of FL were not allowed to vote.

      As to ‘s point: I think the whole likability thing is much overrated. Sarah Palin is likable; she is not presidential material. Mike Huckabee is likable; but I think he’d be a disaster as a president. Competency matters. I’m not too keen on Hillary, but it’s not her, it’s the dynasty thing and the Iraq war vote. Politicians have to, with new information, be willing to change and adapt, and she’s not good at conveying why she’s done that. But I have to say, her service as Secretary of State makes up for a lot, too. She did a good job; and as much as I like Kerry, I think she did a better job then he’s doing now.

      But what really gets me when it comes to the likability thing is Obama. Listening to him puts me to sleep. I admire him very much, I’m amazed at what he’s accomplished despite 100% obstruction from Congress. (Do you even remember him single-handedly mopping the floor at his little debate with Republicans over health care?)

      But truth be told, were I to start drinking beer again, I’d rather a beer with Hillary then Obama any day.

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      • Given how close it turned out, Gore also lost because of Tipper’s work with PMRC. I knew enough unreconstructed hipsters around 1990 who, despite being liberal straight down the line, would never pull the lever for a candidate named “Gore” to believe that there would have been enough to tip the election.

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      • I think you and Tod are talking about two different things (Re: Paragraph 4). He is looking almost entirely at importance during an election. You’re looking at importance once elected. Both of you can be entirely right.

        I think Tod is overstating his case a bit (baby permitting, I’ll write a follow-up), but it’s certainly true that likability matters a great deal in elections. The 2000 election shouldn’t have been close, but it was close enough for a lot of otherwise small things (Florida, Nader, hipsters) to matter. Kerry also didn’t help himself, though personally I came to like him more rather than less as the election wore on, but I don’t know that was widely share (and I thought that Bush’s vulnerability in 2004 was always overstated).

        But in 2008, none of that mattered. Gore, Kerry, HRC… all of them would have won.

        I think the more general truth is that likability gains you or loses you points. The question is where you are in respect to winning, and whether you can afford to lose the points if you’re not particularly charismatic (or whether you’re close enough that charisma can get you over the finish line).

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      • I understand that both Gore and Kerry are good people and solid politicians but I simply cannot forgive either of them for their losses. Gore most especially but also Kerry. Gore I hold almost unforgivable but Kerry at least forced the GOP so far up against a wall that they had to deploy things (doubling down on social conservatism as a wedge issue for instance) that came back to burn them hard core in the long run.

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      • “Sarah Palin is likable; she is not presidential material.”

        Here I disagree. I don’t find anything likeable about her at all. She seems vindictive and petty. Mike Huckabee seems non-descript. I have a hard time forming an opinion about his personality.

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      • I think if you didn’t talk to them about non-political things, Sarah Palin (at least pre-VP bid) and Huckabee would both be perfectly pleasant people to be around. Palin has a big of a Overzealous Soccer/Stage Mom about her, but nothing too terrible.

        To , I do blame Gore, but on the other hand, he was being told by literally, his entire campaign team not to wrap his arms around Clinton and not run as Clinton’s third term. Which obviously, was a stupid thing to do. But, I mean, the guy did win Florida (even Buchanan admitted the idea he got a couple of thousand votes in Palm Beach County wasn’t exactly reasonable), then got jobbed due to dumb decisions by the lawyers in Florida (ie. not asking for a full recanvassing of the state), then ran into a politically-motivated Court. Oh, and choosing Lieberman over Bob Graham of Florida or somebody like Dick Gephardt was also dumb.

        As for Kerry, he actually did better than the pure numbers would say he should’ve, against an incumbent wartime President where the war hadn’t actually become largely unpopular yet.

        In all reality, the Democratic Party of the late 90’s and early 2000’s was the problem. It had ignored the base to an insane degree (see the Dean ’04 campaign) while not creating any real light between them and Bush on way too many issues, which is of course, partially due to the fact that it was a much more conservative Congressional legislation within the DNC then today.

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      • I agree with Jesse about Huckabee, eho’s probably be a very good neighbor. But I respectfully can’t agree with him and zic that Palin is likeable. The best description I’ve heard of her is that she’s a grifter. She’s got a superficial charm, but it seems to me she uses it to control and manipulate people, without having any reservoir of niceness behind the charm. She comes across to me as that girl who flirts with a guy to get something from him, then ignores him afterward. Or favors the not-cool girl with some attention for the same reason, and only until she gets what she wants.

        I think we all know that person from high school.

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      • I think this comment thread illustrates part of why likability doesn’t matter all that much: how people interpret the actions and personality traits of public officials depends heavily upon how a candidate matches their ideological priors and how other people with similar views react to a candidate. So with Bush, for example, you can look at him and construct this down to earth, just a regular guy persona, or you can look at him as a closed-minded bully that you want nothing to do with. And wouldn’t you know it, the more liberal you are the more likely you are to read the second narrative into what little you see about his personality (and vice versa).

        People that were going to vote for Hillary anyway will determine that her personality is one they like and respect, while people that weren’t going to vote for her anyway will find her unlikable, and those in the middle will be split. If it has an effect at all, it will be either through her interactions with party actors that she actually meets personally or it will be a tiny effect on the margins of the popular vote.

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      • If you ask people on either end of the spectrum whether person from the other team is charismatic (especially if the other team says “GOLLY CHARISMA!”), you’re likely to get a “I have no idea why those people like him/her… they are totally smarmy.” (Or some variant.)

        It might be more useful to explore the whole “will the people who don’t decide who they’re going to vote for until, like, election day find this candidate or that candidate more charismatic?”

        Which should be information available to all but the most partisan.

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      • Sarah Palin is amazingly charismatic. Go back and watch her 2008 nomination speech for proof. Everyone forgets this now, but in her first few weeks in the national spotlight she scared the s**t out of the entire DNC because people everywhere *loved* her.

        What no one guessed then was that she had a pretty enormous Achille’s heel: she was lazy. *Really* lazy. Like, lazy to a degree that people who are nominated to things like VP/cabinet/SCOTUS just never, ever are. It was so weird it took everyone a while to figure it out.

        But to say that she isn’t likable dismisses out of hand the entire point of her appeal. She’s a prominent figure in American politics despite being so lazy precisely because she *is* so charismatic.

        But there’s also this, which no one in this thread seems to get: It’s a pretty difficult exercise, if you’re particularly partisan, to gauge likability on either side of the fence.

        Look at the most popular national political figures in the modern era, and one common trait they have is that in addition to being liked so much more than their peers by most, they were despised with far more intensity by the other side’s partisans. In my adult life there hasn’t been a conservative more hated by the left than Reagan, and the right the right has a special hatred for both Clinton and Obama that they just can’t muster up for anyone else. They may not have liked Gore or Kerry, but they never hated them the way they hated Bill and Barack.

        So yeah, of course lefties and liberals here really really hate Palin and really really loved Kerry — and notme and Scott will despise whoever gets the Dem nod and looooove them some Ted Cruz. But those people don’t count so much when it comes to the variables in a Presidential general election, because their votes are never up for grabs anyway.

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      • The main thing I recall from that speech is her poor youngest child being passed from person to person like a party favor, because every pol there wanted to be seen holding the cute kid that the other party would have aborted.

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      • More BSDI from Tod, when, honestly, our mindless partisanship is nothing like their mindless partisanship.

        Just as a data point, I never liked Palin, other than her looks, and the sexy librarian thing is badly undercut by how obvious it is that she’s never actually read a book. I honestly don’t understand why people went crazy for that speech, when it’s just a cliched list of right-wing talking points. If I recall correctly, it was largely written before Palin got the nomination, and would have been given more or less as is by whoever it turned out to be. But I always found the aw-shucks folksiness of Reagan overly theatrical too, so I think I’m just a bad audience for populist-style political speechifying.

        Gore and Kerry were also terrible speakers. Gore was astonishingly wooden. Kerry was so incompetent that he’d give an obvious applause line and then try to talk over it instead of pausing to let the clapping die down. In both cases they seemed completely disconnected from their audiences. (Perhaps that’s what made Palin such a star, that she connected with them so intensely? I can picture that, even if I don’t feel it.)

        I liked Huckabee as a person when he was a candidate. He seemed like a thoroughly decent person who wasn’t going to sink to the depths that characterize today’s GOP. Though as a radio talk-show host, he does just that. Occupational hazard, I suppose.

        Obama can be a wonderful speaker, though often he’s not. His great gift is the willingness to explore areas where there are no simple answers, and share his ideas about them without insisting he has the truth. That’s not often what a president needs to do, but I look forward to what he’ll have to say starting in 2017.

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      • Perhaps it was after the speech ended and Palin was being welcomed and congratulated, He was all of four months old, and I was thinking that the bright lights and noise had to be way too much for him, even without all the strangers.

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      • Tod,

        I agree Palin’s got charisma. All good grifters do. Lots of narcissists, to, and I suspect she’s got that going on, too. But most people don’t really like those folks once they see what’s under that, as I called it, superficial charm.

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      • ““Sarah Palin is likable; she is not presidential material.”

        Here I disagree. I don’t find anything likeable about her at all. She seems vindictive and petty.” Funny, since I have the exact same view of Hillary.

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      • Damon,
        Hillary’s “vindictiveness” is on a whole lesser level than Palin and crew.
        We’re talking the difference between “crossing you off our Christmas party list” and… “You really ought to leave the country now, for your own safety.”

        McCain would have been in serious danger of a sophisticated assassination attempt from his own party. Everyone knew he was old, and it’s easy to make it look like an accident.

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      • Well, I wasn’t talking about Palin was I, nor was I ranking any vindictiveness of the former cannidates, nor was I talking about McCain, who by the way, I was against from ages back. He was part of the Keating 5 and was partially responsible for McCain Feingold. Nuff said.

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      • Zic wrote that Palin is likable and Tod concurred. I disagreed. Her speech was great red meat for partisans in 2008 but I disagree with him that Democratic types were scarred by it.

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    • Nixon had more charm and charisma than Kennedy. Every election he worked his ass off.
      He wasn’t pretty, wasn’t the person folks looked at and said “He’ll be president!”
      **I have this from a notable photographer who was on the election beat at the time.

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  2. Nixon wasn’t very likable and you didn’t write anything then.

    But seriously, the likability thing always struck me as a really weird measuring stick.

    If I am hiring an accountant, is “likability” somewhere near the top of my list? Odds are, it isn’t because I care more about stuff like “does she know how to be an accountant?” with a side of “is she going to embezzle from me?”

    If I’m hiring a coder, do I want her to be “likable”? My first thought will probably be something like “does she know C?”

    Now, of course, this is not to say “SO YOU’RE SAYING THAT YOU’RE OKAY WITH SOMEONE WHO COMES IN AND SHOOTS HER CO-WORKERS!!!” which would not be a fair restatement of my argument. It’s more that I’d rather have a bit of a cold fish, or a bit of a jerk, who knows how to do the job than one who gives great anecdote around the water cooler and makes me say “I want to hang out with this person after work!” (who happens to have read a “use Perl to be an accountant!” book once).

    Now, if I’m hiring for sales? Sure. Charisma is probably a requirement. Or, you’d think it’d be. I’ve met my fair share of Herb Tarlek types (and if you don’t know who that is, just pretend I said “greasy used car salesman from the commercials in your town” (and, seriously, if you want to tell me a story about how your hometown’s used car salesman commercials come across as honest and earnest gentlemen who sincerely want to put you in a nicer, newer car and make you happy, then I guess I’ll ask you to google Herb Tarlek)).

    There’s a bare minimum of charisma required for a hell of a lot of jobs out there (we’ve worked with those people, don’t tell me you haven’t) and I don’t know why “President” isn’t a lot more like an accountant than anything else.

    I suppose I could see the argument that the job of the president is “sales” (or, heck, “upper management”) and, as such, we need a president who has as much charisma as an Obama or a Reagan. I dunno. I don’t know how delighted I should be with either of those guys’s accomplishments. (And they strike me as being the ceiling of charismatic presidents in the modern era.) If I’m hiring a president, I think I’d want someone who has demonstrated good executive skills a lot more than I’d want a drinking buddy.

    I already have drinking buddies. I need a good president.

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    • Think of it another way if you were hiring an accountant for your company would you rather:

      1. Hire an A plus account who is kind of a prick and is going to bring that into the workplace and lower morale especially to lower-staffed workers?; Or

      2. Hire a B plus accountant who has an A plus attitude and is going to be kind to respectful to the rest of the staff?

      I got really big compliments for being nice to the paralegals and non-lawyers at a summer clerkship/associate position especially because the firm said other law students tended to be condescending to the non-legal staff. Getting along with people in a respectful matter is a really big deal. I can tell you that I would pick option 2 in a heartbeat.

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      • +1.

        The more advanced one’s position or credential, the easier is to be condescending to the people who support one’s work. And thus, the biggest surprise that the well skilled professional is unable to do the work below. Lesson for lawyers: never commit the crime of contempt of clerk.

        And if we’re talking about somebody who aspires to become president of the United States, how much more important our people skills for such an inherently political position?

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      • never commit the crime of contempt of clerk.

        If you rely on someone to do quality work in a timely manner, trest them well. They can be pricelesdps, or they can bog you down to the point of crisis.

        One of my colleagues used to be head of HR at a regional airline, and I have her talk to my Career Seminar students about interviews. One of the things she tells them is to be nice to the interviewer’s secretary, because she always asked her secretary how an interviewee acted. She figured that how you treat the “nobody” at the front desk says a lot about you.

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      • You know, if Todd wrote an essay explaining how the taller of the two candidates tends to win presidential elections and thus it’s important to not have a short candidate and I wrote a response talking about how silly it is that tallness is something that shows up as being important, I’d hope that people wouldn’t start writing comments about the year they worked with a midget in the office who constantly asked other people to get things out of the cupboards for them.

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      • Saul,
        Depends on whether you’re paying your workers in chickens, I suppose.
        [There is one company that the IRS audits every year… And every year, the IRS auditor loses some of his (overall) commission because the company always overpays.]

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    • See my response to Saul above, but what you need isn’t particularly relevant. The US presidential election IS a contest where we decide who we like the most, no matter what we tell ourselves.

      Everyone I know who’s ever met him including those who hate him — which is everybody I know who’s ever met him — say that Larry Summers is one of the smartest and most capable people they’ve met. And none of them would vote or work for him.

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      • I’m curious about how many people you know who have met Larry Summers!

        Of course we can riff on likability here in interesting ways here. I did like Gore and Kerry much more than I liked Bush II for policy and personal reasons. Bush II struck me as a phony and a fraud and kind of a jerk as well. Though obviously I am a pretty liberal guy and am not likely to be intrigued by GOP philosophy or talking points. All ideology rests on a series of tautologies and axioms and I am just not swayed by any of the tautologies or axioms which would lead to GOP conclusions or policies.

        Though I do wonder what would happen if I thought the Democratic candidate was a jerk (but a jerk likely to institute policies that I like) and the GOP candidate was a really nice person but someone who I disagreed with strongly. I would probably go for my policy likability over personal likability.

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      • Of course, you would prefer a candidate based largely on the policies. You are a committed social democrat and thus, the base. Tod’s point is that lots of people who could vote democrat in the generals are not like that and those people would not vote in the primaries. If someone who is good on policy but not so good on charisma wins the primaries, that person will likely lose the general election (unless the opposition is worse with regards to likability).

        This means that if primary voters would like to see someone from their side win, they should vote strategically. That is, they should choose someone who is likely to win the generals and not just someone who fulfils all their ideological wet dreams (which Clinton doesn’t really do either).

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      • Everyone I know who’s ever met him including those who hate him — which is everybody I know who’s ever met him — say that Larry Summers is one of the smartest and most capable people they’ve met. And none of them would vote or work for him.

        You might as easily be talking about Dick Cheney.

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    • When it comes to coders, I’d in general want to hire someone who’s smart and knows how to listen to other people and work in a team than an utterly brilliant prima donna. And that comes from having worked with plenty of both and seeing which type is genuinely more productive.

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      • Well, these things exist in degrees. I worked with one prima donna type, but he really was that good. And in the end he could handle teamwork, but only by putting him in a really excellent team. (Actually, that team was him and this other dude, with me in charge. That was some of the best work I ever did.)

        I think the situation gets bad when you have teams with widely varying skill levels, which seems inevitable on any largish team. Then Captain Arrogant is going to just go bonkers trying to deal. In turn, he’ll have everyone around him pissed off all the time.

        Actually, this latter is something I struggle with. As I’m getting older and taking more leadership style roles, and with bigger projects, I’m really having to learn how to deal with a spectrum of talent. And that requires a very different set of skills than producing masses of code.

        Anyway, new job starts Monday! I’m pretty sure the talent level will be uniformly high. :)

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      • v,
        I know a “Captain Arrogant” (you might have worked for him). But he’s more focused on “Here’s a better idea” than cursing the follies of the people around him.
        Of course, sometimes the better idea is completely restructuring the company…
        [He’s a contractor and no one every listens to the contractor even if they’re right. Might be part of why he’s such an asshole.]

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    • In the modern media age, you spend more time with the president than you do with your neighbors. It’s like a four-year-long fireside chat. As probably all of us have noticed at one time or another during the last 14 years, you can’t get away from the president. Now, I’ve voted for presidential candidates I didn’t want to listen to, but it’s asking a lot from the average voter.

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    • I liked Obama, as a person, well enough. I did not like him at all as a Presidential candidate. I saw nothing in him that suggested to me that he would be anything but an incompetent president (his inability to get congress to work with him, and his over-reliance on executive power to implement his goals convinces me I was right). I very much wanted Hillary over Obama or McCain, because even if she isn’t the nicest person (she always seemed OK to my limited view), I do think she would have (& still could) be a very shrewd administrator, and have enough political clout & willingness to play hardball to overcome partisan obstructionism.

      I felt that at the time, the DNC was busy deciding if they wanted to try & elect the first black man, or the first white woman, to the office, with little thought to who would be the better president.

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  3. I agree that likeability is very important, and should be.
    In one sense, voting is very much like hiring a candidate- you aren’t really hiring them based on what they’ve done so much as what you expect them to do. What is expected in the future is wholly unknown.
    It really does have to do with trust, the ability to think that this person really should be given awesome power, that this person truly grasps our aspirations and ideals, and uses them as the guide for how to make decisions.

    Its the dry issue analysis that my fellow liberals fixate on that strikes me as weird.

    Oh, and I began GWB’s tenure as a nominal Republican, but by 2006 wanted to punch him in the nads. He struck me as one of those sneering frat boys out of Animal House. No, not one of John Belushi’s guys, the other ones.

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    • No… GWB was involved in way worse crapola than the folks in Animal House.
      … I really shouldn’t elaborate on this one.
      But there are some words, generally used as insults, that are actual truth here.

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  4. This whole book tour strikes me as very ill conceived if it’s actually a pre-Presidential campaign. It seems like the only thing she’s doing is reminding people of what they don’t like about her (and her sociopath husband).

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  5. I dunno my Todd, granted Hillary is no Bill but then very few people are. That said if you drew a continuum from Bill to Newt I’m not certain Hillary could be fairly placed on the Newt side; probably close to the center either way but Newt? That’s a lot of charmlessness.

    I don’t think Hillary did herself many favors in this interview but I’d want a few more datapoints before I break the glass and start pulling the fire alarm. The woman is freighted with a lot of positive associations for low info centrist voters so that should pad out her likability factor to a degree in a general. I would very much like to see a primary challenger with some legs though, the 2008 race demonstrated that Hillary gets better the more practice she gets in so having a primary opponent would be a useful warm up.

    The feel I get from the Dems is an odd sense of, almost, obligation towards Hillary. First and most powerfully there’s the feel that in the big picture the Hillary team was kind of proven right. They were the ones rolling their eyes madly at Obama’s Hope, Change and Unicorns mantra and the entire party writhed in frustration and fury as the GOP proceeded to savage that agenda with a historic degree of cynicism and partisanship*. So there’s a sense of Hillary having been right once maybe she deserves a second shot. Also there’s a wierd almost old school republican sense of her having earned it. I remember the enormous relief that washed through the party when the Clintons agreed to come on as Sec of State and got into the harness to pull for Obama. Do you remember PUMA**? The GOP got really lathered that it could be a big factor for them in the general but Hillary pretty much neutralized it by going in whole hog for Obama. Also you remember 2012 when Bill exploded the Dem convention with his speech? It was incredible. I’m not surprised the partisans and base want to have that kind of oomph deployed for them again. Add that all together and that’s a big visciral instinctive plus for Hillary and they have been absolutely methodical in co-opting the former Obama network and cultivating the establishment, the Democratic Parties Leaders AND their base both are leaning Clinton strongly now. It’s quite unusual.

    Still if she keeps phoning in appearances and interviews she could implode. Perry did it after all.

    *Granted in the long game this has proven constructive for the party but voters don’t think long game.
    **Party Unity My Ass

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      • Is there another insanely charismatic candidate who also fills one of the major demographic holes in the Democratic party? Let’s be blunt here. Hillary ran a horrible campaign, but most likely, if Barack Obama’s name was Barry O’Bama from Chicago, Hillary likely would’ve still won because she still would’ve gotten massive numbers from the African-American population (remember, Obama didn’t take the lead in the primary in national numbers ’til the African-American population started supporting him) and Barry/Barack would’ve ended up as VP or on the Court.

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      • I’d be quite astonished if the Clinton campaign ever did anything so idiotic*, Burt, as to even let the I word into their lexicon until sometime after she’s sworn in. Also let us note that there technically isn’t any campaign at all. If Hillary louses up everything she does in the next few months I suspect she’ll simply decide not to run.

        Jesse is, of course, correct. Obama got the nomination because of Iraq which left an opening, his historic ethnicity (for which I begrudge him not at all) which provided a base and then Hillary’s mismanagement and Mark fishing Penn *spits*.

        *But in fairness this is a woman who employed Mark fishing Penn so they may be capable of great idiocy.

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      • “I remember that Hillary Clinton was inevitable in 2008.”

        And if it hadn’t been for America’s First Black President(tm) then she would have been.

        I remember how we were all expecting a dreary slog through issues, as Cranky Grandpa wrestled the Principal From Hell, with the only real excitement coming from watching the two of them cap each other’s Bush-bashing zingers.

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    • North,
      Clinton earned the nomination by capturing Bin Laden.
      Her insight, her team, her work.
      I value competency way more than I value putting your time in.
      After health care reform and her campaign, her competency was in serious doubt.

      She’s got serious credibility now.

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  6. As I mention above, I think this is basically correct. It will only come to play, though, if the Republicans find a candidate and some things break their way.

    One of the more interesting things I learned reading Game Change is how much establishment opposition there actually was to her candidacy in 2008*. I wasn’t really unaware of that but there were a fair number of people basically looking for alternatives from the get-go. They found their guy in Obama. It’s conceivable that they will find someone else in 2012 (Martin O’Malley? Andrew Cuomo?), but probably more likely that they’ll resign themselves to it (or maybe have had a change of heart). Plus, HRC likely won’t be caught off-guard next time. She’d probably take Brian Schweitzer more seriously than she took Obama at the outset.

    The general election… well, it’s a question of how much margin she has. Her demeanor will be a factor, though one of a great many. Including who the Republicans get, of course, but not limited to that. A significant difference between then and now is that she has a better resume, so I expect that a lot of people will be more forgiving because they will assume competence in a way that they might not have in 2008 (not that it would have mattered in 2008 if she had won the nomination).

    * – Quite a bit like Mitt Romney, in fact, in Double Down. A lot of establishmentarians were desperately searching for anybody else. Ryan, Christie, Daniels, Jeb. All of whom had their problems, but all of whom many of them preferred to Romney. I’d overestimated the extent to which he was the establishment choice, when as much as anything they simply lacked their Barack Obama.

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    • “A significant difference between then and now is that she has a better resume, so I expect that a lot of people will be more forgiving because they will assume competence in a way that they might not have in 2008 ”

      I dunno. On the one hand, she can talk about how she <strikethroughwas in the room when a SEAL team got Bin Laden. On the other hand, her opponent can talk about Benghazi.

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      • For once, I agree with . Hillary’s been dealing with right-wing “scandals” since before some of the people who are going to vote for her were born. She’ll deal with Benghazi fine, especially since nobody who wasn’t already going to vote for a Republican gives a damn about it.

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  7. re: Benghazi

    It’s hard to make an issue about scandals from 2+ years ago. By the time 2016 rolls around, the Benghazi story won’t be an issue, I don’t think.

    Funny thing about political scandals is that they happen all the time but they have to really capture the general public’s attention for them to matter much longer than a couple of months, no matter how big they are.

    Me, I think Obama’s handling of the NSA and Hilary’s role in that makes a worse scandal than Benghazi, especially given that diplomats are the decider on the ground, and for every complaint you can make about State not doing something, well, Stevens knew what State was and wasn’t doing and he went to Benghazi anyway.

    But the Right-o-sphere won’t drum on the NSA story drum, because they’d have to first come to grips with the fact that the story originates in the early 2000s.

    Like I said on another thread recently, the Right-o-sphere (and by this I mean the Right’s media presence, not the political Right en toto) resolves all problems to “the Left’s solution is worse than the problem”. Kinda hard to criticize Hilary for being pro-Iraq, or pro-NSA, or pro-anything-that-the-Right-at-the-time was pro without first admitting you were wrong…

    Germane to the OP: I don’t think Hilary is likeable. I think she can cover for that because the only likeable guy on the Right at the moment is Rubio, and he won’t run in 2016.

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  8. Likeability may be a factor, but it’s not necessarily the deciding factor. The current prime minister of Canada is someone who even his supporters would likely acknowledge is highly unlikeable.

    For Hillary, if she gets the Democratic nomination, I suspect that whether she becomes president will depend largely upon America’s economic and strategic position around the time of the 2016 election, as well as on just how bad the Republicans manage to make themselves look.

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