ON Asks Campaign Managers to Address Reclaiming the American Dream

Last week Opportunity Nation staff attended a forum at St. Anselm College, the most visited place in the nation by presidential candidates. The forum entitled “How They Manage: A Campaign Managers Perspective of the 2012 New Hampshire Primary” hosted advisers for five of the top six Republican presidential candidates who were deeply engaged in this year’s New Hampshire primary. Moderated by NH political reporter James Pindell, audience members were allowed to ask questions to the panelists following a robust panel discussion.

There, Jen Collins (Associate, Opportunity Nation) posed our big question for senior advisers to potential U.S. leaders:

“Two-thirds of Americans are concerned that the economic ladder of mobility that was there for them when they were growing up is now no longer there for their children. How important is messaging about reclaiming the American Dream, and how did each of your respective campaigns approach that, if at all?”

We received three responses from the panel members. The first was from Sarah Crawford Stewart, Senior Advisor for Jon Huntsman’s campaign and previously, the Tim Pawlenty campaign. Stewart’s response highlighted that a candidate has many possible points for emotional connection with citizens around this topic, and stressed the importance of a candidate’s ability to candidly connect with the personal stories of struggling Americans.

Both Kerry Marsh, Rick Perry’s NH Campaign manager, and Bill Cahill, NH State Co-Chair & Senior Advisor for Rick Santorum’s campaign, provided the stories of their candidates’ upbringings from the bottom up and how hard they worked to reach their political stature. Marsh followed by saying they didn’t have enough time to establish Perry’s personal journey of climbing up the economic ladder.

Cahill further responded, “The government, and specifically the president, as a leader, needs to talk about that and not talk about what he calls, what Rick Santorum calls, the ‘top-down’ approach of government, but the… ‘bottom-up’ approach so that everybody can participate in that success. It’s very important for him I know. He talks about it a lot.” Other panel members at the forum who did not respond directly were Ron Paul’s campaign director Jared Chicoine, and Mitt Romney’s Senior Advisor Jim Merrill.

This was another successful event at St. Anselm College, a member of the Opportunity Nation Higher Education Council: a group of colleges and universities dedicated to furthering the ON mission through hosting regional events. Wednesday’s forum provided an excellent setting for us to raise the question we are urging all policymakers to address and we are excited to work with them on a fall event focused on the issue of opportunity.

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