Be your own best candidate

I remember an advertisement that always caught my attention in the back pages of newspapers and magazines. In bold letters it proclaimed, "Be a model! Or just look like one!" The rationale was simple: If you look good, you'll feel more confident, and those positive feelings will put you on the fast track to success.

My career opportunities in modeling ended more than 20 years and 30 pounds ago. But now, as the Democratic presidential contenders shift into overdrive, I wonder about exploring the concept of "look better, feel better" from a political standpoint. Perhaps the only thing required for a personal great leap forward is to think of myself as a candidate and adjust my daily behavior to conform to the principles of effective campaigning.

The first thing I need is a message. The experts agree on that point. And I have to stay focused on the message all the time. I'm not sure what the exact wording will be, but a lot of office-seekers these days seem to be opting for a message of hope. It also needs to be decisive. A message of decisive hope. This is sounding good.

Another priority is momentum. It must be seized quickly, and not squandered. I once heard sportswriter Frank Deford musing about this subject on National Public Radio. His theory, based on years of listening to play-by-play announcers, is that momentum is like energy. It can't be created or destroyed; it just moves from one team to another. It's probably the same for candidates.

If true, it means that when I'm gaining momentum, someone else is losing it. That would make me feel guilty, as if I'm taking something that doesn't belong to me. Too bad momentum can't be passed from animals to humans. My dogs have a huge surplus they could transfer to me every day without even noticing. That would solve my guilt issues.

But I can't worry too much about my feelings because worrying might cause me to falter. And if I falter, there is a chance I will suffer a setback, possibly even a stunning setback.

I have only been genuinely stunned once in my life, during a softball game in sixth grade when I got beaned right between the eyes while trying to catch a pop fly. It was an experience I never want to have again.

But the worst result of a stunning setback is that doubts about me could arise, and from what I've been reading in the news, doubts are really bad. If not banished quickly, they become "deepening doubts," like pesky tics burrowing into your reputation.

This is not sounding good anymore. I haven't even mentioned other crucial factors such as developing nuanced positions or maintaining expectations. But I am sensing a decisive message of hope in all this theorizing, a message I can focus on every day: I am decisively not cut out to be a candidate, or to even act like one. And if I ever do end up in a race for elected office, I'd better hope I'm running unopposed.

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