Tag Archives: Tim Tebow

On A Wing and a Prayer: What Tim Tebow Can Teach Obama

When it comes to leadership, what can President Obama learn from Broncos’ quarterback Tim Tebow? Apparently, quite a lot. At least that’s the claim Matthew Dowd makes in this recent National Journal article. Dowd argues that Obama has lost his leadership mojo: “Take a look at Obama’s latest interview.  It does not make you feel better about where we are heading.  You don’t feel like we are going to win under his leadership.  He points fingers and refuses to admit his own mistakes or weaknesses.  I often wonder where is the Barack Obama of the 2007 and 2008 campaign.  That Obama was much more like the leader we need at this time.  He offered hope, he had soaring rhetoric, he offered a change from the bitter politics in Washington, and he made us feel we could win.”

The cure for Obama’s leadership ills, Dowd argues, is to steal a page from the Tebow playbook and begin “quarterbacking our country” in “Tebow style”.  And what is that style? “Tebow is the kind of leader for his football team that our country needs at this crucial moment … . [N]o matter the outcome, Tebow has shown what faith, and confidence and humility can do for a team of limited skills that was losing consistently before. This is exactly what President Franklin Roosevelt and President Reagan understood about leadership…What citizens and businesses need is a leader who can raise us all up to a level we didn’t know we had in us, give us confidence in ourselves, give us a common goal to work toward, and make us believe in and have faith in ourselves again.”

I confess that my first time through I thought this might be one of the most inane columns I have ever read. Upon second reading, however, I was convinced of it.  Now, having calmed down a bit, I realize my first and second impressions were exactly right.

Look, as someone who writes what has become essentially a daily blog post, I’m sympathetic to Dowd’s likely motivations in writing this piece. He realized that Tebow is now a national story, and he was probably looking for column material that would attract the maximum google hits. So, we probably shouldn’t take this too seriously. In that vein, let’s play along with Dowd’s logic and see whether Obama has anything to learn from Tebow.  To anticipate my conclusion, the short answer is: No.  Here’s why.

Let’s begin with the most important point: Tebow doesn’t call his own plays!  That’s right – Tebow is miked up and receives direction from the sidelines (and, perhaps, from up above as well – but that’s another story.)  It’s possible, I suppose, to do the same with Obama – but who would be calling the shots? Biden?  Michelle?  If we follow the Tebow football metaphor, why not Bill Belichick? Of course, had Belichick been in charge since day 1 of Obama’s presidency it’s likely that unemployment would be at 4%, Democrats would still control Congress and Obama’s approval would be close 75%. And all with a cabinet composed of political retreads and unknowns.

Still I suppose it’s not too late to bring Belichick on board now. Of course, his first move would probably be to sit Obama. I can hear the press conference now:

Question:  “Coach Belichick, why is the President on the inactive list for this week’s game?”

Coach Hoodie: “Coach’s decision for the good of the team. Clinton gives us a better chance to win, so I made the switch. The President’s record being what  it is, I just thought it was best to make the switch now. That’s it.”  Clinton, of course, would then lead the Democrats to an improbable comeback in 2012, when they reclaim Congress and she gets 8 years. Obama would become a regular on the Rachel Maddow show.

Reason two: Tebow is getting bailed out by his field goal kicker. Who’s going to hit one from beyond 50 yards with time running down for Obama?  Hillary?  Personally, I prefer Kathy Ireland, but that’s purely for aesthetic purposes. Hillary probably has better distance.

But I digress.  My point, I hope is clear.  Dowd would have us believe that Obama’ s struggles have something to do with defects in his leadership style.  In Dowd’s words:  “I do think this Tebow boomlet is about faith.  And it’s about confidence.  And leadership.  And humility — a humbleness born of strength and conviction.  It is about Tebow’s faith in his own teammates.  It is about his faith and confidence in his own organization.  It is about him acknowledging his own weaknesses and failings and mistakes and understanding that if his team looks good, then he looks good… This economy, and our country, do not need more programs out of Washington, D.C., or legislation from Congress, or tax cuts for the wealthy, or more spending on government stimulus.  What citizens and businesses need is a leader who can raise us all up to a level we didn’t know we had in us, give us confidence in ourselves, give us a common goal to work toward, and make us believe in and have faith in ourselves again.

It seems this is a leadership lesson we keep having to learn over and over again through our country’s history.  It is so easy to forget how successes were achieved along the way by Kennedy-style exhortations such as ‘we are going to the moon.’ It is so easy to default into failing Washington-style, us-against-them, to try and get short-term political success. But maybe a quarterback who seems as much boy as man can show us all, including the candidates for president, how to win and how to get our country back on track.”

Oh, please. Obama’s “failings” to date have nothing to do with a faulty leadership style, and everything to do with a sluggish economy that has failed to create jobs – a failure rooted in a fiscal meltdown that predated his time as the nation’s “quarterback”.  And while Obama’s “quarterback play” hasn’t been faultless (see my previous post) the fact remains that he is playing the game under rules set down more than two centuries ago that limit his play calling, and facing a cohesive opposition party that controls half the playing field. It’s going to take more than a wing and a prayer to win this one. Indeed, the whole “us vs. them” football metaphor is misleading. The truth is that in the last week alone Congress has passed both a major appropriations bill and a military authorization bill, and in both cases the legislation had enough bipartisan support to overcome opposition from the extremist wings of both parties.  The lesson, I think, is clear: bargaining and compromise, and not Kennedy-style exhortations, are what constitutes real leadership in this political system.  Or, to use the football metaphor, Obama should skip the fourth-quarter dramatics and inspirational speeches and instead pursue a strategy of “three yards and a cloud of fuss.”  It is amazing how inspirational success – even minor success – can be.

As for Tebow Time – today, he confronts the Devil himself. Let’s see  how that turns out.


Tebow-mania Strikes Iowa (But Wouldn’t Rick Perry Rather Be Tom Brady?)

A couple of days ago I posted an analysis of the last Iowa polling results that showed the race there tightening.  In the process of analyzing the crosstabs of one of these latest polls (something I know you’ve come to expect here) I uncovered an interesting result:  PPP had included a question gauging candidate support by whether one favored Tim Tebow or not.  This struck me as both an odd question to ask, but also a gauge of just how big a news  story, and a potentially polarizing figure Tebow had become.  For those of you not yet acquainted with Tebow-mania, he’s  the quarterback who has led the Denver Broncos to a series of rather improbable victories during the last six games, despite the fact that the football moves through the air like a drunken cormorant when Tebow throws it.  He has led his team to victory, moreover – and perhaps not coincidentally? – while being rather open about his strong Christian beliefs and lifestyle, going so far as to acknowledge that he’s “saving himself” for marriage.  Between the miraculous victories and openly religious beliefs, Tebow has become something of a controversial figure, which I guess explains why PPP decided to include him in a political survey.  Somewhat tongue in cheek (who, moi?) I noted that the survey indicated that among those who disliked Tebow, Ron Paul was favored by 38%, easily leading all other candidates.  No one else even broke double figures.  However, among those who looked favorably upon Tebow, Newt Gingrich topped the polls with 29%.  I suppose the explanation is that Tebow’s detractors are more likely to be the libertarians and moderate Democrats who are uncomfortable with overt displays of religiosity, and of mixing God and state…er….football.  Tebow supporters, in contrast, are more likely be social conservatives who, so far, prefer Gingrich.

Whatever the explanation, the post did attract more than a bit of attention in the blogosphere , but I’m not going pretend to take credit (or blame!) for what happened at last night’s debate.  In all likelihood, Perry’s campaign staff saw the same favorability numbers toward Tebow among Iowans that I did and decided to wrap themselves in Tebo-mania. Here’s the relevant survey question from the PPP poll:

Q30 Do you have a favorable or unfavorable opinion of Tim Tebow?

If favorable, press 1.

If unfavorable, press 2.

If you’re not sure, press 3.

(Asked only of 171 respondents)

Favorable……………………………………………….. 48%

Unfavorable ……………………………………………. 13%

Not Sure…………………………………………………. 40%

You saw what happened next.  When Rick Perry was asked in last night’s debate  if, given his uneven debating performances to date, he could do well in this format one-on-one with President Obama, Perry decided to try to create his own come-from-behind victory, proclaiming that, “I hope I am the Tim Tebow of the Iowa  caucuses”.  Let’s roll the video:

Hey, no one thought Tebow could start in the NFL either. Truth be told, while many pundits wrote Perry off after his initial disastrous debate performances, he has bounced back both on stage – last night’s debate performance was his second strong one in a row – and in the polls.  As this RealClear composite polling graph shows, Perry (in blue) is beginning a (so far) modest climb in the Iowa polls.

 I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating: given his record and funding, Perry is not out of this race by any means.  Even a fourth place finish in Iowa may position him to “solve” the coordination problem raised by my colleague Bert Johnson regarding which candidate the social conservatives will eventually settle upon.  If Perry is that man, he potentially becomes the leading anti-Whoever is Leading candidate.   Know this – he is ramping up his media presence in Iowa, and except for a three-day holiday break , he has promised to plant himself in Iowa from now through caucus day.  And when it comes to winning a caucus, it’s better to finish strong than to start strong.

And what of Tebow? He has a more difficult task ahead than winning the Iowa caucus: he needs to beat Tom Brady –arguably the greatest quarterback since Joe Montana – and the Patriots this Sunday.   That will take a true miracle.

Which leads to the question: why wouldn’t someone want to be the next Tom Brady of the Iowa caucuses?

Oh, that’s Ms. Tom Brady getting…er….sacked.

Latest Iowa Results: Tim Tebow Haters Back Ron Paul!

Results from the first two polls to come out of Iowa since last Saturday’s debate were released today and both show that Mitt Romney is in deep trouble.   What is perhaps more interesting, however, is that at first glance, the two polls do not seem to agree regarding who will occupy the “Not-Newt” position in this key caucus state.  The first poll, by Insider Advantage, has Gingrich leading the field with 27.1% of the vote, and Ron Paul in second with 16.5%. (The poll was in the field yesterday.) This is entirely consistent with most recent polls that were in the field prior to Saturday’s debate.  However, the Insider Advantage poll also shows Rick Perry climbing into third place, at 13.2%, ahead of Romney who has fallen to 4rth, with 11.9% support, followed closely behind by Michelle Bachmann at 10.3%.  With the poll’s margin of error at 4%, this suggests that Perry, Romney and Bachmann are grouped together in the “Not-Newt” bunch, behind Paul.  Note that Paul only gets 13% support among Republicans – his second place standing is based primarily on support among independents; he leads among the latter group in Iowa with 27.3% of the vote, just ahead of Gingrich at 24.5%  In addition, Paul leads among the youngest voters age 18-29 with 39.6% (interestingly, Bachmann is second among this group with 22.6%).  All this suggests that Paul is not going to go much beyond 20% in contests restricted to Republicans.   More importantly, the Insider Advantage results are not good news for Romney, who only a few weeks ago was leading in Iowa, and as recently as last week seemed to be the most likely “Not Newt” candidate.   If, as I have long surmised, Paul does have a ceiling of support at roughly 20% among Republicans, whoever wins the remaining slot in the top three in Iowa has the upper hand in  claiming the “Not Newt” slot in the weeks ahead.  As loyal readers know, I have been suggesting that Perry, by virtue of his record as Texas governor and his fundraising prowess, is well positioned to overtake Romney for the “Not-Newt” slot.  What has held him back to date has been a series of dismal debate performances.  On Saturday, however, his exchange with Mitt  “All In” Romney may have boosted Perry’s standing in Iowa (more on that below.) Before we blame Romney’s “bet” for his decline, however, note that his support had already been dropping prior to Saturday’s debate.  Moreover, Perry’s rise is likely also a function of his strong media presence in Iowa; he has been blanketing the state with advertisements in recent weeks.

But wait. Before you  go online to Intrade and place $10,000 of your child’s tuition money on Perry, what are we to make of this second poll by Public Policy Polling?  It shows that Gingrich’s lead in Iowa has dropped from 9% to 1% since the debate; Gingrich is now at 22%, essentially in a dead heat with Paul who has 21%.  Romney is third at 16%, Michele Bachmann at 11%, Rick Perry at 9%,  and Rick Santorum is at 8%.  As I’ve noted several times before, polling a caucus is very tricky business; because turnout is so low, it is imperative that the pollster get an accurate sample.  And that’s hard to do.  In looking at the crosstabs of the PPP poll, we see that Paul leads among those who voted in the Democratic caucus in 2008 with 34% support. Mitt Romney is a distant second among these voters with 18%.  However, if we look only at those who participated in the Republican caucus in 2008, Gingrich is comfortably in the lead at 26%, 8% ahead of Paul. Paul also leads among those who describe themselves as very liberal, liberal or moderate, and among self-identified Democrats – but Gingrich is ahead among all conservative groups and he is comfortably ahead among Republicans. What this suggests, then, is that how well Paul does in Iowa come January 3 will depend on how many independents and Democratic-leaning voters show up in the Republican caucus.   I can’t tell from the PPP cross tabs what percentage of those surveyed voted in the Democratic caucus in 2008.

My point is that we shouldn’t overreact to the increase in Paul’s support.  Although it certainly bodes well for his performance in Iowa, much of his support comes from independents and those who voted in the Democratic caucus in 2008.  Neither bloc of voters is likely to determine the outcome of the Republican nomination. It does suggest, however, that Paul may be a formidable third-party candidate.

A couple of other interesting tidbits from the PPP poll:  Consistent with my read of the debates as reported in my live blog of that event, Gingrich leads at 30% among those who paid a lot of attention to Saturday’s debate, followed by Paul at 23%. Romney, on the other hand, leads among those who did not pay much attention at all to the debates. (Interestingly, given his marriage woes, Gingrich draws equal support among women and men.)  Again, this suggests that the debate bet may have adversely impacted Romney’s support at the margins, at least in the short run.

At this point, the number of those polled who say they may change their mind has dropped to 40% – still a large number less than 25 days before the Iowa caucus, but 20% less than the number of potential undecideds a week ago.  Nonetheless, this race is far from over.  Thursday’s debate may be the most important one to date, particularly for Perry and Romney, who are duking it out for that coveted top three performance.

Perhaps the most telling result from the PPP poll, however, is this: among those polled in Iowa who view Tim Tebow unfavorably, Paul is the first choice of 38% of them!  Among those who view Tebow favorably, however, Gingrich is ahead with 29%.  (Paul is second among this group with 25%)  To me, that is as clear a sign as any that Paul cannot win the Republican nomination.  Because among Republicans, if you don’t like Tim Tebow, you don’t like Mom, Apple Pie and, uh, er…..America.