The Positivity Principle

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(Photo by Chris Schneider/Getty Images)

(Photo by Chris Schneider/Getty Images)

Written by Dominic Dezzutti

During any presidential election season, pundits of all shapes and sizes will present their keys to ensure a victory for a candidate. Some will say certain states are key, some say certain voting blocks are key, and some swear by campaign strategies that must be adhered to in order to win the White House.

I’m not a professional pundit, but I do occasionally play one on TV. So to do my part, after minutes of exhaustive research, I believe I’ve arrived at the key principle to winning a presidential election.

Positivity.

It may sound simple, but there are many former campaign managers that led failed campaigns that will say it is much easier said than done.

Positivity doesn’t always seem like a truly motivating factor for voters. Even though many of us usually learn more from negative reinforcement than positive reinforcement, and even though negative ads seem to work in elections, that doesn’t mean positivity has no place in a campaign.

If we look a bit deeper at how we establish a strong connection with someone, it is usually based upon a positive reaction. And when it comes to deciding who we think should lead the most powerful nation on Earth, the candidate who makes the strongest connections usually wins the race.

Recent past Presidents who lost their attempts to win a second term lost to opponents who accentuated the positive as much as, if not more, than they highlighted the negative.

Jimmy Carter and George H.W. Bush lost their bids for a second term to candidates that offered not only something different, but more than one reason to truly like them as people. Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton did not just campaign on how awful they thought their opponents were. They gave voters a reason to support their own candidacies, independent of their opponents. They offered the “shining city on the hill” and came “from a town called Hope”.

On the other end of the spectrum, the most recent President to win re-election, despite a bitterly torn electorate and an opposing party that truly thought he was the one of the worst Presidents ever, won his race over an opponent who never really made a connection with the electorate.

In fact, Republicans would have been wise to have learned the lessons from the John Kerry 2004 campaign before engaging on the current tack that anyone is better than four more years of President Obama. The 2012 campaign is simply a photo negative of the 2004 campaign, with eerie similarities.

If you need another reason that positivity, however silly it may sound, may be a winning strategy, ask John Hickenlooper how he turned a career as a microbrewer into a successful political career. While he will certainly point to some good luck, it is undeniable that running positive campaigns have given him a considerable advantage and has helped him keep his overall approval ratings very high.

Remaining positive, as a campaign strategy, can be risky and seemingly go against conventional wisdom. But however risky, past Presidential candidates trying to do one of the most difficult things to do in politics, unseat an incumbent, have proven that positivity may indeed be the secret ingredient that everyone is searching for. About The Blogger

- Dominic Dezzutti, producer of the Colorado Decides debate series, a co-production of CBS4 and Colorado Public Television, looks at the local and national political scene in his CBSDenver.com blog. Read new entries here every Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Dezzutti writes about federal, state and local matters and how our elected leaders are handling the issues important to Colorado. Dezzutti also produces the Emmy winning Colorado Inside Out, hosted by Raj Chohan, on Colorado Public Television.

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