Chameleon

U.S. News & World Report has posted a brief but valuable summary of the six leading candidates’ efforts to “change their stripes.” The whole piece is worth reading, and you should click so they get advertising revenue, but I’ll post a few highlights:

‘…the efforts of presidential candidates to “rebrand” themselves-developing new personalities, taking new stands-have been greeted with skepticism. “People are looking for authenticity,” says William Galston of the Brookings Institution. […]

‘For Rutgers political scientist Ross Baker, the candidates’ performances call to mind a crazy sort of TV reality show featuring surgical makeovers. “What you’re seeing now is a series of political ‘tummy tucks’ and Botox injections,” Baker told U.S. News-and sometimes much more. […]

Giuliani’s rebranding has impressed political professionals. “Rather than change on issues where he was liberal, he is emphasizing the record where he was conservative,” says Democratic pollster Geoff Garin. “You get a more conservative profile without embarrassing flip-flops.” […]

McCain rocketed to national attention in 2000 as a maverick reformer who took on his party’s establishment… This time around, he is recruiting former Bush contributors and trying to become the establishment candidate himself, partly by his backing of Bush’s policies in Iraq, which, unfortunately for McCain, have become increasingly unpopular. Says political scientist Baker: “His makeover really involves his relationship to the president, whose constituency he wants to inherit.” […]

Mitt Romney is having similar problems of consistency, drawing criticism for changing his views on abortion and gay rights in order to please conservatives-even for exaggerating his experience as a hunter. Says Democratic pollster Garin: “It’s an interesting commentary on how much the Republicans feel they have to change to suit their base, and Romney is the poster child for chameleon politics in this cycle.”

‘What makes things tougher for Romney and other candidates is how easy it’s become for the mainstream media and the bloggers to find contrasts in a candidate’s past and present positions, thanks to technological advances in archiving, the Internet, and YouTube. […]

‘The former first lady has been trying to reintroduce herself to the public as a warmer, more engaging, less threatening personality than she seemed to be as first lady… So the New York senator has been appearing in citizen forums and mingling happily with voters, to show her softer side. […]

“[Barack Obama] hasn’t been in national politics long enough to have acquired a brand, and his past doesn’t hem him in,” says a Democratic strategist not working for any campaign. “He has campaigned on character and charisma. … What people are uncertain of is if he has the knowledge to make decisions day after day as president.” […]

‘Now, after two years out of elective office, the former North Carolina senator [John Edwards] says he has a better understanding of what the country wants, and he is running from the left, as a strong anti-Iraq war Democrat who advocates “transformational change.”

‘”[Edwards has] changed the most of anyone in the Democratic field,” says a senior party strategist. “On the positive side, here’s the guy who had time to think and figure out how to address the issues, but on the negative side, here’s the guy who decided he had to get to where the party wants its candidates to be for 2008.”‘

And here’s the part that really warms we reality checkers’ hearts:

‘More broadly, the political recalibrations really have just begun. When candidates win their parties’ nominations, they tend to rebrand themselves yet again, moving toward the center to capture as many voters as possible in the general election. “We’ll need a wiring diagram,” says Baker, “to figure out where they are.”‘

A wiring diagram would do, but why compromise when you’ve got Reality Check?

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