'08 May Favor A Diplomat for President

Americans often look for qualities in a new president that are missing in the old one.

A classic example was when voters chose Ronald Reagan’s optimism and hawkishness after Jimmy Carter’s gloominess and defeatism. Let’s call this the “Opposites Theory” (OT) of presidential candidate preference.

So I’m thinking that if it’s true that GWB’s administration has aided the polarization of Americans—and there’s good evidence that they have, and if their Neo-Con shaped foreign policy is undermining America’s standing in the world, might American voters this time around want a new commander-in-chief that’s a consensus builder with real diplomatic skills?

If OT is true, and if it applies to the 2008 presidential race, won’t candidates perceived as too polarizing (Clinton, Tancredo, Edwards) and/or too hawkish (McCain, Giuliani, Hunter) ultimately fail with the voters?

When the OT dynamic starts to kick-in, won’t it play to the favor candidates that are consensus builders (Richardson, Thompson) and/or diplomatic by nature (Obama, Romney, Vilsak)?

Of course, real candidates are rarely one-dimensional. That is, they bring both strengths and weaknesses to the table. Also, voters’ perceptions of a candidate’s strengths and weaknesses matters greatly. That’s why we’ll see Clinton and Giuliani showing their warmer sides, and Richardson, Romney and Obama showing some toughness.

While the early money is again on polarizers and hawks, it’ll be interesting to see whether those turn out to be good investments.

For my money, I’m betting on the OT.