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On the car rides to events, my staff would have contests for who could deliver Robbie's speech the best. Up on stage during the last debate at Sticky Fingerz, I noticed people chuckling as one of my staffers sat mimicking him word-for-word, pose-for-pose, pause-for-pause. As I gestured him to shut up, I couldn't help but smile myself.
I grew to really like Robbie as a person, but to survive the monotony of a campaign, a sense of humor is a must. And he provided plenty of ammunition, as I'm sure I did for others.
Everything on the trail seems like the replica of a replica of a replica. The images, the words, the delivery, too often seem familiar. It's as though a successful politician is first and foremost "replicable."
When exploring whether to officially run, I took the advice of some friends and called some highly touted campaign "consultants" from Washington to provide their assessment of me as a candidate. At one awkward exchange, a young man just out of college was concerned that my being single was a liability.
"Well, I'm not in love," I replied.
"But people want to see that you have similar values."
Another strategist chimed in that I should "find a girlfriend in a wheelchair."
It seems unbelievable ... I know. But this industry standard of the "perfect" candidate, pieced together over time from polling and punditry, has obsessively warped the mindset of many of those in the business of politics.
But I've always believed that the undercurrent of politics today is our search for authenticity. And for many in Arkansas's Second District, that will be Rep. Vic Snyder's most lasting legacy after he retires this year. Everywhere I turned I heard something similar, "I might not have agreed with Vic, but I respected him."
Perhaps he was one of our last authentic leaders in Congress. But let's hope not.
The most difficult dance in today's political arts is the courting of a stranger to ask for their vote. It's intimidating knocking on doors or approaching someone without knowing their views, moods, or life history. And, frankly, with only three months to campaign, it was an inefficient means to reach voters.
Beyond the small numbers you touch, a candidate also has to break through several emotional barriers to even have the opportunity to ask for their vote. And let me tell you, voter anger, mistrust, and disgust aren't just media buzz words — they're very real and very potent in today's electoral climate.
My first time shaking hands was in downtown Little Rock at the River Market. And it was pretty much like speed-dating from hell.
"Hi ma'am'," I'd say with my hand extended.
"You're not a politician? ... Are you?" a brightly clad woman snipped.
"Well, no ma'am. But I'm trying to become one."
"You come one step closer, I'll scream!"
Lesson one became: DENY! DENY! DENY! ... that you're a politician. And so I tried a different strategy.
"Sir, my name is Patrick Kennedy, and I'm NOT a politician."
Without hesitation, a grandfatherly-like gentleman said, "Son, with a name like Patrick Kennedy, you sure as hell better be."
He's got a point, I thought to myself.
Despite its slow and unpredictable nature, I loved this type of campaigning. With every vote hard-earned, you realize that the most explosive change was catalyzed one conversation at a time.
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