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31 July 2008



Obama has a difficult balancing act for the next few months. He needs to avoid appearing like to be too much of a policy wonk and losing the motivational characteristics that have made Obama such a compelling candidate. Providing the information up front plays into the policy wonk persona and provides nothing but additional ammunition for detractors to pick at.

For the last 28 years we have had the same presidential race over and over: the policy wonk (Democrat) versus the affable and bumbling everyman (Republican). Since Reagan's first election this has been the story of each presidential race. Winners and losers are determined by how well each candidate plays their role. Examples: Bush I with the grocery scanner, Clinton's first election team talking about his remarkable grasp of all issues great and small (same with Carter), Bush II not knowing any foreign heads of state, Al Gore being Al Gore. Each is playing into the role for their party.

This cycle, Obama did not fit easily into the standard policy wonk persona ... more of a visionary/motivator persona. This is one reason why he is such a compelling candidate. It also makes him a hard target for the republican campaign strategists to attack. If the strategists can move him into the wonk-box (as they are trying to do), he becomes a known entity and the race becomes very predictable. Otherwise, he can keep the edge and hopefully break the wonk-everyman tradition and start a new type of presidential race. Maybe one where people have an opportunity to become engaged and fully informed.

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Jim Benson

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Jim Benson is a collaborative management consultant. He is CEO of Modus Cooperandi, a consultancy which combines Lean, Agile Management and Social Media principles to develop sustainable teams.


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