February 1, 2010
California’s candidates for governor face the gnarliest combination of public anger and economic distress in decades, making the 2010 race a text book case study in political communications: How does a wannabe governor effectively tell extremely pessimistic voters he or she understands the depths of their misery, without succumbing to despair, and while offering hope for the future that doesn’t over-reach or seem totally naïve?
Call it the Carter Conundrum, in homage to failed one term President Jimmy Carter, who simultaneously faced double digit inflation, huge unemployment and the first assault on America’s national security by violent Muslim fundamentalists. He famously screwed the pooch in that deal by tapping fully into the gloom and anxiety of voters about the seemingly intractable conditions they faced – and got walloped by a sunny and upbeat Ronald Reagan in 1980 for his trouble.
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