The long, drawn-out primary season has attracted plenty of commentary, with pundits on both sides of the political spectrum drawing lessons left and right.
But taking a slightly longer view, we’d like to take a few minutes to point out some of the fundamental business lessons that we learned along the way.
It’s never over until it’s over. Just a year ago, conventional wisdom had it that John McCain, the Arizona Republican, was finished as a candidate – out of money and out of message. But McCain didn’t quit, he took a bold stand on Iraq and plainly stated what he thought were his strengths and weaknesses. He won the nomination handily in one of the great comeback stories in American politics.
When it’s over, it’s over. As a neat little bookend for the McCain comeback, Hillary Rodham Clinton’s campaign vectored far off in the direction of fantasyland in early June when she failed to recognize that she had actually lost the nomination. A few behind-the-scenes words from party elders set the record straight and she recovered to make a more graceful exit when she gave a formal concession on June 7.
If there’s a problem, confront it head-on. Barack Obama learned the hard way that you can’t ignore a looming disaster like the train wreck of Rev. Jeremiah Wright’s televised sermons and then his reappearance on the scene in full bombast mode. He gets credit, too, for giving conservative-leaning Fox News a little one-on-one air time.
Nimble and flexible is not wishy-washy. McCain and Obama have shown themselves to be quick to respond to changes in the campaign themes and priorities. Indeed, the first candidate to find an economic message that resonates with voters will likely have the upper hand come fall.
The toe you step on today may be attached to the ring you have to kiss tomorrow. In business and politics and life, you learn quickly that the successful people are ones who learn how to navigate relationships.
Consider, for example, all those Hillary Clinton speeches beseeching voters to make her the “breakthrough” candidate. Interesting, but sitting on the sidelines, perhaps seething, was another “breakthrough” woman, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.
Pelosi, the daughter of a former mayor of Baltimore, rose through the ranks of the House by dint of her own ambition and skill. While Hillary Clinton was enjoying the trappings of life as first lady, Pelosi was working in the minority after the Clintons squandered a huge advantage in the 1994 election.
That may partially explain the Clinton campaign’s inability to win superdelegates, despite her late surge.