Presidential campaign begins when it ends

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Column by Jim Flynn

Welcome to the next 11 months of the permanent campaign for the presidency. In between elections this political circus never leaves town.
It was rumored, though we’ve never found confirmation, that President Richard Nixon whispered to his wife after the swearing-in ceremony: Keep waving! The re-election campaign begins on the way to the White House.
Pollster Pat Caddell is credited with the concept of permanent campaigning for public approval. Caddell advised President Jimmy Carter to become a full-time, every-day salesman for his own re-election – including weekends, holidays, and vacations.
The theory became a 1980 instruction book –The Permanent Campaign – written by Sidney Blumenthal, an advisor to President Bill Clinton. The George W. Bush presidency was the first two-term example of a skillfully managed permanent campaign.
President Obama has demonstrated full mastery of the permanent campaign re-election strategy. Upon arrival at the White House he appointed 38 so-called czars to handle presidential responsibilities, the largest number of in-house advisers, directors, and special assistants in history.
Unlike cabinet members, the “czars” don’t undergo Senate confirmation. They come aboard as instant experts and directors of a wide range of national concerns – financial stability, economic recovery, energy, climate change, weatherization, cyber security, domestic violence, health technology, green jobs, ethics, etc., etc., etc.
The czars’ marching instructions are: The president selects policies and you guys do the work. While the president and his campaign advisers are on the road massaging voters and romancing financial supporters, czars should remain anonymous, avoid members of the press, and resist invitations to appear before congressional committees.
Other aspects of the Obama permanent campaign included having Congress write the controversial Obamacare health legislation, while the president cleverly stayed out of sight. The president also gives speeches regularly about national problems which ought to be fixed, without presenting plans, programs, or solutions which might be twisted politically by those pesky Republicans.
Mr. Obama’s image may not be as tarnished as pollsters and Republicans think it is. He has mastered the art of sales pitching his agenda and expecting his czars and congressional Democrats to produce political results, with minimal presidential appearances. History may remember him as the passive president.
The end of the primary season can’t come too soon for Republican presidential contenders. Their well-dressed herd of presidential wannabes has created obvious confusion among their own party members and undecided voters. At the same time, House and Senate Republican leaders can’t seem to get their signals straight. They have become adept at letting seeming victories shrink into obvious defeats.
Until the primaries have sorted out the peripheral players, Republicans will lack focus on the major issues of the 2012 election campaign – unemployment and the economy; deficit spending and national debt; Medicare, Medicaid, and universal health care; size of government, and energy independence. Republicans will not win the White House if their platform is focused on social issues and the fate of the postal service.

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