Watching pictures of the very statesmanlike Barack Obama on his first overseas tour has not only been extremely uplifting and enlightening in the power of this man to win friends everywhere, to treat people with empathy and respect and to make his own impact on the hardest heart, but it suddenly brought unfavourable comparisons with John McCain. Up to now, I have tried meticulously, not to compare the two men because it is very easy to do so, if one is malicious. To begin with, there is nearly a thirty year gap between them. Being 60 myself, I couldn't care less about ageing itself. But I do care when people look old and, worse still, act it. And John McCain does both with gusto.
He is making huge geographical gaffes relating to foreign policy issues yet is trying to hold the moral high ground about being more experienced in dealing with such issues. Well, he and his aides must be squirming pretty badly every time they see the easy, affable and clearly successful pictures of Barack Obama looking every inch the Commander in Chief with such consummate ease. McCain challenged Barack to show what he was made of on foreign issues and got far more than he bargained for: a confident, competent politician who clearly relishes his interactive role as America's ambassador of goodwill. Looking at the winning smile, the confident body language and the ease with which he makes people feel welcome and valued, one cannot help but admire Obama and the asset he will be to America when he gets into the White House.
There is no hope in hell of the Republicans winning this election unless they change their nominee at the last minute for one simple basic rule of thumb: You never pitch two diametrically opposing candidates against each other. Where the comparison is too stark, the younger more vibrant one will win out every time. The same happened with the UK and the British elections 11 years ago - Tony Blair for Labour against William Hague for the Conservatives(Tories). Simply no contest. Labour came in with a landslide. The same in 2001 against Ian Duncan Smith. It didn't matter what new policies the Tories had, what great ideas they would put in place, the voters focused on the leaders, and the boring Tories with their old mindsets and approach were no match for the youthful, springy, handsome Blair. Women voted for him in droves. The same with David Cameron. While he was pitched against Tony Blair, there was hardly a change in fortune for the Tories, even though he too was a new broom and equally dishy. The minute the older and staid Gordon Brown took over, the Tories gradually climbed 12 points and has stayed there since.
We are in a televisual age now, where presentation and image are at least 50% of what is on offer, whether we like it or not. People are not just listening to the message anymore, they want the whole package: visual, emotional and practical. To pretend that how a person looks these days, sounds and acts do not matter is very silly. In today's blogging age where everyone has an opinion, voters want to feel good about the candidate, to empathise with him/her, to have a kind of eye-candy to cheer them in their dull moments. John McCain as eye-candy? Jeez. There is nothing wrong with having an older person running as a candidate but he must look and act youthful, must be ready to challenge his rival in all sorts of ways that he too can deliver and, above all, must also appeal to the 50% of the population who are not as political as the men but are silent and deadly with their voting patterns: women. John McCain, not surprisingly has a significant male following: 57% to 43% for women, whereas with Barack Obama it is almost the reverse: 60% female and 40% male. Another chilling statistic for Mccain is that currently his website gets only 3% Black traffic and 88% White, while Barack Obama's get 33% and 59% respectively. Which candidate has the broader appeal and is clearly attracting a mixed audience?
With Barack on top form, clearly liked by youngsters and women, he could be unstoppable. At the rate things are going, the day the Republicans lost this election is the day John McCain became the presumptive nominee against a virtual unknown. A youthful, intelligent, people person who makes McCain look really ancient and irrelevant. The Republicans need to learn that fighting current battles with yesterday's tools never work. Unless you are fighting like for like, there is no hope of winning hearts and minds because the disparity between the two candidates, as now, would be too great for people to appreciate or feel comfortable with. It is time the Republicans moved into the 21st century, especially in appreciating the way America is evolving . Above all, time for change in the outdated mindset of predominantly White, male perspectives which is clearly losing them a broad appeal, especially to women and minorities.