Change vs. More of the Same?

Welcome back!
We are in the middle of crazy travel criss-crossing North America. Since my last post, Laura and I have been doing seminars in Edmonton, Alberta, Kelowna B.C., Washington DC, Los Angeles and Ottawa. Next week, Laura is in Nashville while I'm in New York and there are several stops in between. As a result, I have been somewhat remiss in my postings. However, it is the ultimate season for politicos and sports nuts everywhere, isn't it? The World Series is under way, hockey is in full swing and we're deep into football. It's sensory overload for people like me.
Canadians Choose Stability Over Change  
In Provincial Elections in Ontario, Manitoba, Newfoundland & Labrador and Prince Edward Island, the incumbent governments were re-elected. Although mostly by reduced margins and - in Ontario's case - the McGuinty Liberal government was reduced to a minority (by one vote...a 'major minority' as Premier McGuinty called it.) So what was the deal with those results? What happened to all the anger and the desire for change that many had anticipated?
In spite of pockets of anger - such as the 'Occupy' movement - Canadians could have been persuaded to change, if they felt that there was a strong alternative on offer that would benefit themselves, their families and their communities. For the most part, that didn't happen. Even though the Progressive Conservative parties and their leaders in Ontario, Manitoba and P.E.I. put up a spirited fight, they could not overcome one of the most powerful forces in politics - the desire to maintain a steady course in choppy economic waters.
There is no question that the voters in those elections are nervous - particularly as the Europeans grapple with their bail-outs; and the Americans' struggle with the debt, deficit, foreclosures and unemployment. Ultimately a voter will make one of three decisions when anxious about their futures: 1. Stay home. The majority of voters chose not to trudge to the polls and cast their votes. [By the way, I would love it if reporters were to ask the 'Occupy' protesters if they bothered to vote in the last election.]
2. Go with 'change'. That change must be compelling, clear. The Party and Leader must drive a message that you really care about. In these elections, it wasn't about taxes, it was about jobs and economic growth. There were big voter shifts in most of the elections, but not enough to topple the incumbent governments. Attack campaigns work, but they also require a solid alternative view that resonates with the values of your voter universe.
3. Stay with the Party and Leader who represents a 'steady hand at the tiller'. That was what the Conservatives under Prime Minister Harper did in the May federal election as they moved from minority to majority government, and it was what the winning Provincial Premiers did in their wins.  It is using incumbency for its maximum benefit - namely, to portray stability and a solid plan for the future. It's often labeled 'better the devil you know than the devil you don't' - and there is some truth to it However, the fact is that campaigns matter and the winning campaigns were able to use the 'air war' [ads and earned media] with a strong 'ground war' - with troops on the ground, door-to-door, telephone canvas etc.] In a solid campaign it all comes together.
What's at Stake in the Las Vegas Republican Debate?
The Las Vegas edition of the traveling Republican debate circus provides an important opportunity to test the ability of Herman Cain to gain continued momentum or fall back like many before him. Can anyone else move up the chain to stunt the seeming inevitability of a Mitt Romney nomination victory? As the Republican candidates fight for positioning, it's intriguing to watch the rising and falling fortunes of their individual  campaigns.
First Gov. Sarah Palin's slow flame-out as people saw more of her, they began to really question, and then conclude, that she was not Presidential material. Having just read The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin by Joe McGinniss  like it or love it, it paints a picture that is unsettling to say the least. Rep. Michelle Bachman appeared to inherit the Palin mantle, rose quickly and then faded as her 'sound bites' began to reveal a lack of depth.
Then it looked like Gov. Rick Perry was going to be the one to take out Gov. Mitt Romney. After several lackluster debate performances, and one or two embarrassing events and comments, his star faded too - leaving businessman Herman Cain in a neck-and-neck race with Romney. [Although it's intriguing that Gov. Perry doesn't seem to mention his success in reducing the numbers of people sent to prison for minor drug offences, even closing prisons and getting people into drug rehab programs. Perhaps he has calibrated that it won't ingratiate him with Tea Partiers, but he has to remember that he has to build on that base, not just cater to it.]
Does Cain really have a chance of knocking Romney out?
Based  on the evidence, no. While he has an appealingly open charm and a lot of credibility in the business world, he is making a lot of rookie mistakes - joking about immigration 'electrical fences that could kill illegal immigrants'. He has a bold slogan '9-9-9' but he has not laid the groundwork for it well enough and has not addressed the problems with it. His proposed 9% flat tax for individuals and companies, along with a 9% sales tax are highly controversial but he has done nothing to alleviate the greatest attack - that his plan is unfair to those who are most vulnerable. Although he could offer a minimum threshold for his income tax, and a sales tax refund for low income people, he has not addressed how to make it more fair. Cain has to realize that as he nears the top of the pile, everything he says will be under the spotlight and there is no room for jokes about serious issues.

While Romney can come across as too slick by half, nevertheless, he has been tested on the national stage for six years. That experience and long-term exposure is critically important to a serious candidate. His Mormon religion is still an issue, but he has reached the stage where anyone [or surrogate, as Rick Perry has learned] who attacks his Mormonism does more damage to his or her favored candidate - than good. Romney's greatest vulnerability is that many still wonder what his true values are, as he appears to have shifted them based on his actions as Massachusetts Governor compared to today - particularly on health care. Romney is clearly the man to beat for the nomination. He just needs a steady, solid performance tonight - in keeping with his 'steady' campaign manner. It's not going to create excitement;  nevertheless he's beginning to emerge as a steady and clear alternative to President Obama.

And remember, steadiness and stability can be highly attractive in unsettling economic times!

Technology Companies in Crisis...RIM Learns a Lesson
For Blackberry users such as me around the world, it was a frustrating week. RIM had to learn again what so many organizations have learned the hard way. Get out ahead of the crisis. Make sure your CEO [in RIM's case, two co-CEOs] is visible. RIM sent out their Chief Technology Officer and held back on their CEOs until a day later. I got caught in L.A. without my Blackberry operating for a day. Although it was an inconvenience, many consumers were more angered by the slow communications response than the triggering incident. Again, another lesson to be re-learned.
 The Perils of Communicating Health Risks
Health care is a risk issue. How you handle difficult or controversial issues in the health care field must be handled carefully. The goal is to raise awareness so that the public will take action to reduce further risk, while avoiding inflaming. Questions have arisen about the handling of a potential health risk through lack of appropriate infection control procedures by a doctor and a public health clinic. The announcement by Dr. Isra Levy, Ottawa's Medical Officer of Health was seen by many to be inadequate as he withheld the name of the clinic and the nature of the procedure in his first news conference. That decision not to release that information while issuing the public warning raised criticism.  However, even though it was delayed by 48 hours, the proper information was released by the much-respected Dr. Levy and he ably defended himself before the media and City Council.  The lesson to 'get as much bad news out as possible - right away' would be helpful for all Medical Officers of Health facing similar challenges in the future. In this CTV National news item in which yours truly was interviewed, see for yourself how the issue came across [fast forward 4 minutes into the newscast].

Until next time, remember, what happens in Vegas....stays on YouTube!

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