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Note to Rob

September 19, 2014

On Fridays, we’re usually either silly or petulant. Since we got our silliness out of the way on Tuesday with our paean to Ron Burgundy, we’re just petulant – and militantly so.

The object of our annoyance, once again, is Rob Astorino.  We really had wanted him to be a decent candidate, but we continue to be disappointed.  From the start, his candidacy has been about running down the state and whining about Cuomo being a bully.  This, plus an apparently insatiable desire to see his own picture on TV.

With regard to running down state, he was at the Business Council annual meeting yesterday going through his litany of dated statistics on the state economy.  We’re last in everything, he says. Once that was true, but over the last four years conditions have improved. There has been a recovery, if not resurgence, in every part of the state except for the Southern Tier.  New York now ranks toward the middle of pack in terms of overall economic performance.  Nobody should be satisfied with that, but it certainly belies Astorino’s bleak portrayal.

With regard to whining, just listen to Astorino’s comments about receiving a tepid response at the Business Council. He said it was because everyone in the audience was afraid of Cuomo. Business leaders should be “in revolt” against him, but they are cowed, he said.  Has Astorino gone nuts?  Who delivers a speech to an essential support group and then turns around and insults them as cowards?  And on the broader point of nobody criticizing Cuomo today – that’s not right. The left, the right, anti-frackers, frackers, gun proponents, public sector unions, editorial boards, PB – Cuomo is taking shots from all of them.

With regard to the imagery of the Astorino campaign – where do we start?  Maybe it’s with the observation that the campaign should be about something bigger than him.  (No pun intended.)  It should be about an issue or idea.  It should be about a cause.  It should be a crusade for something.  Anything.  Instead, what we are getting is the cult of Rob.  All we see is his mug from as many different angles as possible.

What is it with that?  Does he think he’s some kind of heartthrob?

Is there something we’re missing here?  Is there some subtlety to it?  Do they think that having every hair on your head in place conveys command of issues?  Does grooming now equate with governing?

He’s running ads upstate right now that feature a ridiculous profile shot that looks like he’s posing to have a coin minted in his image.

If we could pull Astorino aside and have a real conversation with him, we would say the following:

“Look, this was always going to be an uphill battle.  You knew that.  You knew you’d probably wouldn’t win.  So, the imperative was and is to conduct yourself in the right way – a way that is good for you and good for the Republican Party over the long run.  But what you are doing right now isn’t helping either.  If the campaign ended today, the lasting image would be your sour face with a caption that says: “This state sucks.”

You’ve got to change that.  You’ve got to become the champion of something or someone.  Ask yourself: Who am I trying to help exactly?  Who am I fighting for?  It can’t be gun owners.  It can’t be frackers.  It can’t be Tea Party types.  Maybe it’s the lost generation of people with diplomas and degrees who can’t find good jobs.  How about that?  What can you do to create the perception that Rob Astorino and the Republican Party are all about creating good jobs for all?  Imagery helps here, but not another close up of you.  Instead, it ought to be you meeting with people in a school, at a job site, or you just talking to someone who is struggling.  You listen intently to that person.  And you say in response: “I hear you.  I understand the situation.  I’m going to fight for you.

You have to do something that makes a real connection with people – and not just white people, but everyone.  It’s not about your face and your voice – it’s about putting a face on a larger problem in society and giving voice to others.

You really need to reflect on that.  There’s still some time left.  There’s still a chance that your campaign can be turned around and that you will have a good showing after all.  But if you don’t, if this continues to be all about you, the whole thing will be an embarrassment.”

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