One of the most underappreciated attributes in politics is a candidate's authenticity. In an era when politicians' talking points are scripted, and they worry about a gaffe going viral, the candidate who comes across as genuine holds a real advantage. It's one reason why Barack Obama was able to defeat Hillary Clinton, why Mitt Romney struggled to capitalize on a favorable environment in 2012, and why someone like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie is able to use his force of personality to overcome ideological differences with both Democrats and conservatives.
And the authenticity factor has played a critical role in this year's midterm elections, from the challenges red-state Democrats face in winning over skeptics to the problems establishment Republicans have faced in reaching out to the tea-party grassroots. Just take a look at the successful and flailing candidates this cycle, and a lot of the gap comes down to authenticity.
It's a worrisome sign for Senate candidate Michelle Nunn, whose campaign was roiled this week by the revelation of a months-old internal campaign memo that offered frank advice on what it would take to win in Georgia, a conservative-friendly state. The memo, reported by National Review's Eliana Johnson, portrayed a candidate with few core values, relying on friendly photo-ops to reassure rural voters and willing to take positions that would raise her the most money. Nunn's stance on Israel, for example, was "TBD," but her advisers strongly recommended taking a supportive position, thanks to "tremendous financial opportunity" in the Jewish community.