Friday 27 April 2018

Johnny Fallon: Michael D needs a big idea if he wants to win

The weekend polls shocked some followers of the Presidential election, few would have predicted the sharp rise in support for Sean Gallagher. While it is quite possible that the current level is a spike there is no doubt but that he has surpassed Michael D Higgins as the most popular candidate at the moment.

It is no co-incidence that the two front runners are candidates that have avoided negative campaigning and attacks up to this point. They have focussed on themselves and the Irish electorate is generally responsive to that. This weekend did see the first real test of Higgins campaign however. His initial reaction was not inspiring, he took to giving warnings about ageism and to questioning others experience. It was mild but a step towards negativity born out of panic. This week Higgins needs to get back into control, calm down and re-focus his campaign.

His poll ratings have been incredibly consistent but yet despite always coming out on top (according to commentators) in debates, he has not managed to build on this. Higgins needs to look at this for it points to two inherent weaknesses in his campaign. The first is that while he has done well in terms of discussing the constitution, the electorate is really not that interested in such talk. Even David Norris has talked about each county having its own ‘Aras month’, Sean Gallagher has had an expo idea, and almost all the others have been talking about some initiative or other. Higgins has so far failed to present any big ideas or initiatives that he will bring, instead relying on the idea that he ‘won’t let us down’ publicly. When all is said and done worries about feeling let down by the president rank pretty low on the scale of things that keep us awake at night. Michael D. presented himself as the safe option, but what if we don’t want safe? We know a president may have little power but surely there is no harm in one trying?

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