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Alaska Notebook: A lesson from the campaign of 2008

By now there's little debate about the first debate. In boxing terms, Mitt Romney won a unanimous decision. If nothing else, he would have won on points for the old virtue of carrying the fight. That means the fighter who is aggressive and going after a passive opponent, even if he doesn't land many punches, gets the decision.

Plenty of people have done the punch counts. Suffice to say that Romney was slinging leather while President Obama didn't seem to have his heart in it.

Heart matters. That's because this election will be decided by the swing states -- and in those states, by those voters still on the bubble. And voters on the bubble tend to decide with both heart and head, or from the gut. Economic self-interest, upbringing, world views and their sense of the candidates as people make a complex calculation often resolved by intuition. The basic question becomes, "Who do I trust?"

Hard-nosed analysis will help establish that trust. Many questions remain unanswered about Romney's plans. And while the president has a record, there are questions about where he wants to lead us from here and what it's going to cost to get there. For all the numbers tossed about Wednesday night, there weren't many you could take to the bank.

But even solid numbers won't be enough. A presidential candidate has to look like he believes in them, is willing to fight for what they represent, for the good they will do in people's lives.

Fight is what was missing from Obama on the stage in Denver.

The president might take a cue from an unlikely corner -- Rep. Don Young. The lesson of 2008 I'm thinking of isn't the hope and change crusade that vaulted Obama to the White House. It's Don Young, at 75, strolling like a Jet out of "West Side Story" into Sean Parnell's press conference late in the GOP congressional primary race. The smart money said Young would lose, remember? He was under investigation, had a $1 million legal defense fund. He was an old-boy earmarker on the ropes.

He ate Parnell's lunch.

Like Young or not, you had to grant his gumption. He conceded nothing, hung the "zero" moniker on Parnell, promised he'd win and made good on the promise.

Romney has his eye on the president's lunch. He got a taste on Wednesday.

-- Frank Gerjevic

 



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