Hey, candidates: Stop trying to sound authentic

It’s difficult to imagine a more inauthentic president than John Kennedy, with his double and triple hidden lives. Was Franklin Roosevelt, who tried to mask the defining reality of his physical life, “authentic”? Then again, try to imagine FDR handling the Hillary coffee shop set piece without wincing. Should that have been held against him as a potential president?

The truth is that every campaign struggles with how to campaign. In 2008, Barack Obama was a rare speaker who could draw rare crowds and the campaign wisely played to his strength. But by 2012, it was more difficult to repeat that magic and there were the awkward, inevitable crowd-size comparisons to 2008.

In the 2012 primary, Mitt Romney focused on the economy and we tried, when possible, to have events at settings that drove an economic message: small businesses, factories, job incubators. When we got away from that, we often stumbled, like a disastrous, half-empty event in a soulless convention hall in the South Carolina primary.

The scene of reporters chasing after Hillary Clinton’s luxury van—what CNN’s Peter Hamby deftly labeled “the running of the reporters”—was a terrible omen for the months ahead.

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