First, folks couldn’t identify the meaning of the acronym “GOP.” Now, they can’t name a single GOP presidential candidate. Forty-seven percent of those polled in a recent Pew Research Center survey couldn’t identify one Republican competitor for the GOP nomination. Twenty-eight percent could name Rick Perry, 27 percent could name Mitt Romney and 15 percent could name Michele Bachmann. All of the other candidates drew only single-digit name recognition. That’s not necessarily surprising. After all, I’m not sure why registered Democrats would follow the Republican primaries closely enough to be able to name all the candidates. But, at the same time, you’d think people would pick up the frontrunners’ names just by osmosis or something. Don’t they have TVs? Watch the news? Read this website???
Republicans were slightly more plugged into their own primaries than the American people at large: “Sixty-six percent of Republican and Republican leaning voters could name a candidate,” Political Ticker reports. “Perry and Romney had the highest name recognition, each with 36 percent of respondents identifying them as candidates.”
But don’t despair: I once judged a scholarship competition for high school girls in which fewer than five of the competitors knew who Joe Biden was. In other words, a lack of interest afflicts both sides.
In all seriousness, though, this points to the primary problem for a candidate like Herman Cain. Never underestimate likability — but recognize that, before voters can like a candidate, they have to know his name. All the more motivation for Cain’s campaign — and the GOP at large — to resist the urge to rest on recent laurels (in Cain’s case, his surge in the polls; in the GOP’s case, 2010) and work tirelessly to publicize candidacies. For that matter, it’s also a lesson for Romney, who’s been around so long you’d think he’d enjoy higher name recognition than he does. He’s been vetted and he’s been endorsed by key players — but does he continue to reach out to voters with all the energy and enthusiasm of a new candidate? It seems safe to say a candidate can never engage in too much voter outreach. Keep plugging away, people!