THINK OF CLINTON AS ARCH DELUXE

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At what point do all the allegations against President Clinton and his wife finally begin to penetrate the minds of the electorate?

Mark my words, there is such a point, and when it comes, voters will view anything he does with skepticism and disbelief.

That's why I think Bob Dole, as lackluster as his campaign seems so far, will become the next president. And that's discounting the possibility that Colin Powell will be his running mate.

The cumulative effects of negative stories about the president will work in the same way that advertising works, only in reverse.

Up to now, Republicans have despaired that nothing seems to hurt President Clinton. As our own astute observer, Bob Garfield, has noted: "President Clinton spent the first three years of his term on the run. He lost on his economic stimulus package, on healthcare, on gays in the military and on 71 of his first 72 nominees for attorney general. Then he lost both houses of Congress.

"He is being sued for sexual harassment. Three of his Arkansas cronies have just been convicted of felonies and there is talk about an obstruction of justice complaint against the first lady herself."

Add to that the Clinton administration's highly questionable request for and handling of over 400 FBI security files, and new questions over whether the Clintons paid their full share of taxes in the Whitewater land deal, and you'd be justified in thinking that we'd have a president that would be on the verge of self-destructing. Yet he has led Bob Dole by as much as 20 points.

But the Republicans shouldn't get discouraged.

All the ingredients are in place to eventually erode the president's position. Mr. Dole finally had a good week of campaigning during the middle of June, even though the president's campaign manager tried to deprecate his efforts: "What we got is more of what we've seen for the last two months-a long litany of what's wrong with the president."

That's good strategy. I think it's enough to define yourself as the opposite of the other guy, especially if the other guy-whether a brand or a person-has fatal flaws.

Think of McDonald's as President Clinton and Burger King as Mr. Dole. McDonald's has shot itself in the foot with its launch of Arch Deluxe, and Burger King is taking full advantage of it.

McDonald's, like President Clinton, is its own worst enemy by: (1) coming out with an inferior product; (2) disparaging the product in commercials; and (3) distancing itself from its bread-and-butter market, kids.

BK is gaining store traffic by reminding consumers that it's the opposite of the other guy. "McDonald's may try to romance you with new burgers. But nothing beats an old flame. Get your burger's worth."

I'm not saying that McDonald's debacle will be fatal because it can dump Arch Deluxe or somehow make it more kid-friendly.

President Clinton, on the other hand, is stuck with himself, and if Mr. Dole is patient enough, that will prove to be his undoing.

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