10 Valentine's Day Lessons for GOP Presidential Hopefuls

I want to wish everyone a Happy Valentine’s day. A sound bit of advice I heard this weekend: “Valentine’s Day is not allowed to make you either happier or sadder than you already are.” A good rule of thumb, for sure.

This is a Valentine’s day column on lessons potential 2012 GOP presidential contenders can learn in courting the GOP primary electorate. This weekend during CPAC (and I know a considerable number of you attended!), I was chatting and tweeting with friends about the potential crop of 2012 candidates. And a female friend of mine got the ball rolling by mentioning some lessons associated with courtship that some of these potential GOP candidates desperately need to learn. It was a fun chat, and a lot of it makes sense. So without further ado, here are 10 Valentine’s (or courtship) lessons for the crop of potential 2012 presidential candidates.

1. You love someone because of their imperfections not in spite of them.

A wise woman once said this to me, and this is something Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels needs to learn. I like listening to Rush Limbaugh, Mark Levin, Laura Ingraham, Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter. I think social issues are important. By constantly calling for a truce on social issues and taking swipes at those who listen talk radio, Daniels often sounds like the elites in the establishment who essentially tell movement conservatives, “I’ll love you if you change everything about yourself.” Elitists in the establishment may see valuing social issues and listening to talk radio as imperfections, but movement conservatives want to be loved for these perceived “imperfections” and not in spite of them.

2. You want someone who is secure and confident enough and not afraid to tell you what you need to do better.

This may seem like it would be incompatible with the just mentioned quality, but it is not. So long as such advice is constructive, it makes the person giving the advice look secure. For one, I hope more candidates would discuss how conservatives can court minorities better without compromising their conservative beliefs. Too often, people mistakenly think the best way to court minorities is to compromise on conservative beliefs. I could not disagree more. The proper way to bring more minorities who currently may not see themselves as conservatives into the fold is to persuade them of conservatism’s merits instead of patronizing them by assuming the only way minorities will vote for you is if you basically assume they are all liberal and don’t know any better.

3. But you also don’t want that someone constantly carping.

I know I have too many flaws to list. But I don’t want someone who spends every waking minute pointing out all these flaws. Likewise, conservatives don’t need candidates who spend more time carping than leading. This is a problem John McCain had. And it’s something Mitch Daniels needs to be careful of if he decides to run for President. It’s something Joe Scarborough must watch out for too.

On the flip side, some social conservative leaders need to also take this advice. It really was a shame that so many social conservative leaders boycotted a conference because they felt it  was not 100% kosher, according to their standards.

4. You (well, at least not me) don’t want someone who is so spineless that they tell you everything you want to hear and do whatever you ask them to do. You don’t want someone who says “high high” if you say “jump.” 

This is a lesson that Mitt Romney and Tim Pawlenty, who sometimes seems as if he is trying to be to the 2012 cycle what Romney was to the 2008 cycle, need to learn. Both candidates often come across as being a little too willing and eager to say what they think conservatives want to hear. 

5. You want someone who has a core (no, not a firm midsection, though that helps). A core set of beliefs and principles that define the person. Someone who stands firm and isn’t afraid of their beliefs.

The biggest disappointment this weekend at CPAC was that very few speakers mentioned or had an opinion on Egypt. Presidents and leaders need to react to events in real time. For many of these potential candidates to not even say a word on Egypt makes them come off as utterly unprepared for prime time and governance. It makes them seem like they lack conviction and have no core beliefs. Regardless of how one feels about Ron Paul, he is a man who does not lack conviction, courage, or beliefs, which was made evident by his remarks about Egypt.

Here’s the rub for these potential candidates who said nary a word on Egypt. How can they possibly claim, going forward and if Sarah Palin enters the race, that Palin lacks “gravitas” when Palin’s 140 character tweet on Egypt showed more conviction than anything many of these purported presidential contenders said at CPAC.

6. You want to spend more time fighting together for the things you believe in than fighting each other.

Some fights make a relationship stronger by revealing some truths that had to be told or by having things said that had to be aired. And making up after a big fight most certainly makes many fights more than worth it. However, sad is the relationship in which the bulk of the relationship is spent fighting. When a relationship works well, it should be easy like Sunday morning.

Candidates who cause more strife and division within the party do more harm than good and should be avoided in favor of fusionist candidates like Ronald Reagan who united the right to fight the left. Allen West’s message was the only one this weekend that seemed to call for the right to passionately unite.  Republicans should be united to fight the left’s radical agenda instead of allowing the left to divide and conquer them. 

7. You want someone who is positive, who has fun living life.

Maybe I should speak for myself, but people tend to be attracted to those who have a sunny disposition and a positive, fun outlook on life. It’s what made Reagan so successful. Many of the current crop of potential candidates seem like they are treating running for President as a homework assignment or a tedious chore. This was evident at CPAC last weekend, especially when some of these candidates were contrasted with Donald Trump, who seemed to love and milk every minute in which he was on stage.

8. You would rather have someone with a checkered past who is honest about it and has learned from it than someone who tries to hide who they are or were.

I’m not perfect. I’ve made mistakes. I sin. And I don’t judge others. I could care less about someone’s past so long as they are honest about it. I think this is a lesson many politicians never learn. This is something Mitt Romney (with RomneyCare) and John Thune (his vote for TARP) will have to deal with if they decide to run for the White House.

Perhaps they should learn from Haley Barbour. In recent days, the gregarious Mississippian, for instance, is not hiding from his past as a well-oiled lobbyist. He has embraced it and said that part of being a great President is the ability to lobby successfully. Such a message has a much better chance of resonating — and, more importantly, establishing a sense of trust — than a message that tries to sweep this past under a rug.

9. You want to think less about the wedding and courtship and more about the marriage or relationship.

As our current President is painfully making evident, an enduring union and relationship is always preferred to a spectacular wedding that lacks substance. President Obama had incredible celebrations to be sure, but what came after has left much to be desired.

Pomp and circumstance matter in this day in age when the media is so fragmented, no doubt. But conservatives are better off focusing on candidates who can lead the minute the election is over and immediately after people have left the last of the inaugural celebrations.

10. You want someone who you will know will always have your back.

Bottom line: I don’t want a candidate who cares what the elite media or establishment think. I don’t want a candidate who I fear will sell conservatives out once they enjoy the trappings of power. I want a candidate who I know will fight for me and for my blue collar father and pink collar mother who don’t have either the time or know-how to navigate the halls of power. I want a candidate who makes me feel like I can sleep easy knowing that that candidate simply has my back. And quite simply, I’d rather fight for such a candidate than support a candidate who may sell out conservatives as soon as the candidate feels like they don’t need them anymore.

Sure, this is a rather subjective test, and something I just viscerally feel. But it’s perhaps the most important quality in choosing a mate — or a presidential nominee.