How Rocco Can Triumph – 1. ROI

I am not a political fanatic. I am more a pragmatist. That is why, on July 25th, 2010, I blogged here that I was supporting Rocco Rossi. You can read that entry here. As of today, Rocco is fourth in a five person race. But what you should know is that Rocco Rossi can win this election.

A Bit of Background

Anyone following the election knows that Rocco is considered one of the five front runners. He is also mired in the single digits in most polls. After a poll released today, the best his new campaign manager could come up with is "we’re everyone’s second choice."

I have had the opportunity to talk with Rocco and to attend several events, including many debates. I like the fellow and think that he could do a good job as mayor. At least, I think he could do a better job than the other front runners. He is well educated, articulate and an experienced back room political operative, effective in building coalitions.

Getting a plurality of voters to vote for Rossi would not be easy. He has no previous elected experience. He is not a well known public figure. He looks a bit odd – tall, bald, bespectacled and with a perpetual smile that some feel is a bit eerie.

At first, Rocco's campaign focused on some effective key ideas – better management of city finances, getting the city moving and attracting new business. I think the idea was to make it easier for voters to understand who Rocco is and for what he stands. A social media campaign combined with a spectacular schedule of retail politics quickly identified Rocco as a real candidate. This admitted him to the massive number of candidate events and debates scheduled over the year.

After the last poll, desperation took its toll and a staff shift occurred, bringing aboard, amongst others, Bernie Morton and Warren Kinsella. Now Rocco is making almost daily announcements, including his Toronto Tunnel idea. The social media team went hyperactive and Rocco's messages echo on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube. While the current poll keeps Rocco at 10%, others discuss other polls placing him in a tie with George Smitherman. Talk to the team and you will come away with the belief that this is just where Rocco wants to be at this time, roaring up from behind as the candidate who can save the city from a Rob Ford calamity.

I actually believe that Rocco can win. But he will need to return to his original concept, connecting with the voters.

How Rocco Could Win

Political candidates spend much of their time trying to meet and listen to voters, explaining why the candidates visions meets the wants of the voter. Candidates are usually charismatic and walk away from a discussion thinking they have a supporter. But I think that Rocco is missing some great opportunities to truly resonate with the electorate. I am not going to enumerate everything but want to provide what I think would be the single most effective concept. Familiar to every voter, the concept is Return on Investment.

Rob Ford is riding an angry wave based on the idea that the voter is being ripped off by high taxes being spent badly. Ford spews out accusations of corruption and waste, vowing to eliminate this as mayor. He talks about supposed waste, repeating the same anecdotes. The voter hears stories of waste and knows in a visceral manner that were it not for this waste, all would be better. This is a negative stance on Ford's part but it has a nice taste for many.

Rocco must use his business experience to counter Ford. What people want to know is, "What's in it for me?" What do I get out of Rocco's ideas? Why should I elect this unknown neophyte? All of the candidates are framing their ideas and commitments in the context of emotional return. Rocco is uniquely positioned to give voters what they look for when they are making any investment, a real ROI. If you are going to build subways, what will that return to voters. Sure it will cost money but it will also save in other ways. Put a number to it.

As a voter, if I were to learn that Rocco's promises were more than the usual political bullshit, that they provided a real and tangible return, I would pay him a lot more attention. Make the numbers real and the emotion will follow.

That is my two cents for the day.