04/11/12 — Bottom line: Presidential campaign should begin with the issues, not mud

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Bottom line: Presidential campaign should begin with the issues, not mud

And then there were two -- sort of.

With the news that Rick Santorum is suspending his campaign for the Republican nomination for president of the United States, the stage is finally set for the real battle -- Mitt Romney vs. Barack Obama.

Now, there is a hanger-on, Newt Gingrich, but you should consider him a mere decoration as the primaries continue. He is after notoriety and a position at the policy table, nothing else.

So now that it looks like the nomination is a done deal, what is the next step if you are a Republican, a Democrat, an Independent or anyone else who might be considering casting a vote this fall?

You need to listen closely.

There will be stark contrasts drawn between the policies on the left and the right sides of this race. All of the arguments will boil down to a few key points -- chief among them, government involvement in your daily life.

All the rest is just window dressing.

More on all that later.

But be prepared, it is about to get ugly.

But before it does, here are a few facts to remember.

It is easy to talk about being "one of the people," to stand on a dais and claim to have humble beginnings and that you understand the struggles, the responsibilities and the worries of an average person.

But that is not the reality of daily life, not really, for either candidate.

The president is no average Joe. Average Joes don't worry about the price of arugula -- and they do not jet off to Spain and Hawaii during a recession. And they do not live in the rarified tower of Harvard Law School. They also do not get invited to Tom Hanks' house or have buddies who are movie producers and music moguls either, and their daughters and wives do not sport the latest in designer clothing.

And, by the way, they also do not accept enormous contributions from Wall Street bankers and then castigate them in public to pretend they are standing "for the people."

And Romney is no ordinary Joe either. He is rich, super rich. He earned the money honestly and through meeting a payroll, but he probably doesn't have too many regular guy buddies. That is not the circle he travels in anymore and his reference points are rich guy things, like car elevators and race car team owners.

But that is no excuse for not thinking before he speaks. He needs to be much more in control of those unfortunate misstatements as he pursues his quest to be president. He needs to set aside those reference points and communicate with the people he wants to serve.

So, bottom line, neither of these guys is likely to be your neighbor. And neither needs to be to be an effective president.

You want someone in the job who is savvy, who has met a payroll and who understands what it takes to grow this economy and to create jobs. You want someone who has dealt with high-stakes decisions and someone who is immune to pressure from donors and allies, who will make the choices that are in the best interest of the country. You want someone who can withstand criticism and who can keep his cool. You want substance, not just style.

You want someone who is a leader.

So your next step should be to decide just who fits that bill better -- no matter what the media and political machines say.

Once you realize where both these men come from, you can really start to look at what matters -- the policies and programs they see as the key to this country's future.

That is where your decision will -- and should -- lie.

So now, let the race begin.

Published in Editorials on April 11, 2012 10:55 AM