A Different View of the GOP Campaign Trail

The Florida Republican presidential nominee election took place yesterday, and Mitt Romney came out victorious. With the finalized results, many reporters and political scientists are feverishly anticipating the next steps for Gingrich, Paul, Romney and Santorum. In lieu of joining the journalistic hubbub about the elections, I offer an alternate perspective and a less conventional approach to analyzing the republican candidates.

Consider your average day. You wake up, get ready, carry out your normal routine, wind down in the evening, and repeat the next morning. Pretty simple, right? Your day-to-day is probably unobtrusive to others, and likewise, other people’s actions are relatively inconsequential to your life. This is not meant to minimize anyone’s daily activities; we all have to face different challenges like health, financial, social, or work problems. Even with this variety of daily struggles most of us don’t worry too deeply about any extensive repercussions on how our actions affect others. However, those running for political office live in a very different world than you and I.

I had the opportunity to volunteer on the campaign trail for one of the hopefuls for the GOP presidential nomination. I learned first hand what it’s like to be on the ground and work around the clock for the campaign. There is little rest and even less sympathy. The media consistently feeds the public with the most current polls and juicy attacks on the candidates as they travel across counties and states. As the leaders, Gingrich and Romney are under steady scrutiny from voters and from opposing campaigns. When engaging in conversation with others, people are quick to give opinions and judge candidates on everything from policy to character. But to be fair and gain a perspective of the full picture, let’s remember that Newt, Ron, Mitt and Rick are real people.  

We all need to be aware of the circumstances the candidates face. The men on the campaign trail have extremely demanding agendas. They travel endlessly by bus, car, and plane. But instead of reclining and relaxing while listening to their favorite iTunes playlist, they hold meetings, receive briefings, formulate opinions and plans, and prepare for the upcoming events. Upon arrival at any given destination, they have to be completely prepared in appearance and intellect. Attending rallies, town hall meetings, question and answer sessions, and planning sessions, the candidates have to know their constituents and the area well enough to create personal relationships that will be effective in winning votes.

Or consider the 19 debates of the Republican primaries and the requisite steps to win. The candidates must formulate an opinion, work with staff to outline a policy plan, memorize countless facts, and be prepared to defend the plan when subjected to attacks. Then multiply it by 10-15 different subjects that may come up in the debate. Don’t forget the appearance including just the right suit and tie, facial expressions, gestures, tone of voice and correct posture. One slip up could be the end of the race. Think back to the Perry gaffe that sent his campaign to the grave. The pressure on these candidates is immense and the stakes are high.

Next time the elections come up in conversation remember a few things. Before you contribute your two cents and jump at Gingrich for being too fiery, remember the last time you lost your temper. Next time you want to denounce Romney’s business career, remember that you go to work every day to make money too. Maybe instead of attacking them personally, we can acknowledge the sacrifices they make and the blows they take. Instead of criticizing we can credit them for being hard working and capable. Instead of railing them for flaws, we can recognize that we too are imperfect.

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