Power Sheet – February 10, 2016

Nastiness is a bad thing for leaders, but whether it’s a bad thing for presidential candidates remains to be seen. The latest evidence comes in a poll conducted for the Weber Shandwick communications firm and its Washington-based lobbying division, Powell Tate. The big take-away: Voters absolutely hate incivility in a political candidate and say overwhelmingly that such behavior will affect their vote. They all say it. But do they believe it?

These likely voters seem to agree it’s been an outstanding eight months so far for political rudeness. Democrats say the second- and third-most uncivil candidates have been Republicans Chris Christie and Ted Cruz. Republicans say the second- and third-most uncivil have been Democrats Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders. But even in today’s bitterly fractious environment, America is united on identifying the nastiest presidential candidate of them all: It is of course Donald (“How stupid are the people of Iowa?”) Trump.

The problem is that if voters abhor incivility, and if they agree that by that measure Trump is the worst, then why is he such a dominant candidate? Yes, he lost Iowa, but by only three points in a 12-person field; he absolutely crushed the field in the first true primary in New Hampshire last night. He remains the favorite for the GOP nomination in every national poll.

What gives? I have a theory. Trump is the only candidate who hosted a reality TV series, and it was extremely successful; The Apprentice and Celebrity Apprentice ran for 12 seasons on NBC. He knows in his bones what TV producers have long known and the other candidates are learning: Incivility (“You’re fired!”) is good TV. Election contests have become reality TV shows, and a candidate who can give voice to what lots of voters are thinking, and do it in a way that’s good TV, offers a highly effective package. Sanders is similarly channeling the anxiety and anger of millions; he’s cranking up the Hillary insults and as he showed on Tuesday evening, it’s working, making him a fearsome challenger to Clinton’s vastly superior fundraising network and organizational prowess.

There’s just one other problem: Incivility may be an asset for a candidate in today’s environment, at least in the early going, but it’s a heavy liability for a leader. In government, business, or any other realm, rude, nasty leaders rarely succeed. They occasionally rise high, as we all probably know from experience. But leaders must work with many constituencies, and antagonizing them gratuitously is usually not good strategy. My own observation is that the most successful leaders may be tough, intense, and blunt, but they aren’t rude or nasty, at least no more so than average. The least civil leaders usually end up small-timers or failures. Think former Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO and accused felon Martin Shkreli, who non-testified before a House committee last Thursday morning (pleading the Fifth Amendment in response to questions), then called the committee members “imbeciles” in a tweet that afternoon.

In the survey, half the respondents say they have refused to vote for a candidate in the past because of uncivil behavior. I hope they’re telling the truth and that they’ll keep voting that way.

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What We're Reading Today

AI vehicles get major lift from regulators 

Google received notice from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, notifying the company that an autonomous Google vehicle can be considered a driver under federal law. This is a monumental notice for Larry Page's company and other self-driving vehicle efforts, as federal and state laws have stood in the way of testing the cars on roadways. Fortune

Viacom CEO defends his role

The newly minted chairman of Viacom, CEO Philippe Dauman, was grilled by investors yesterday over the performance of the company's stock, which has dropped over 50% in one year. He also had to respond to an audience who's skeptical of Dauman replacing Sumner Redstone as chairman of Viacom due to allegations that he's not truly independent. Dauman defended his record of building Viacom alongside Redstone and says the company's performance has been distorted by outside news surrounding the founder's health and a lawsuit filed by his ex-girlfriend. WSJ

Supreme Court halts Obama's coal emissions plan

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Boss of JPMorgan Chase's 'London Whale' fined

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The New Hampshire Primary Fallout

Outsider candidates win New Hampshire

As polls expected, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders easily won the New Hampshire primary. Trump walked away with 35% of the vote in a crowded GOP race while Sanders' near-60% majority sent a strong message to Hillary Clinton. The win provides fuel to the candidates' fire that they can energize their respective bases enough to win a general election. NYT

A photo finish for second in the Republican race 

Ohio Gov. John Kasich came in second in the Republican voting, with 16% of the vote. He eked out a win against Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Jeb Bush and Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, who all received at least 10% of the vote. The second-place finish propels Kasich back into the race after a poor showing in Iowa. But it makes it clear that the GOP is divided, allowing outsider candidate Trump to rise. Fortune

Bernie's win is Clinton's loss

Despite Sanders holding a large lead in New Hampshire for months, Clinton continued to campaign through yesterday. Her inability to grab even 40% of the vote, however, highlights how difficult it will be for Clinton to connect with younger voters. It also shows Sanders may be reaching people outside his independent bloc, widening his appeal. USA Today

Up or Out

VMWare has named former American Airlines CEO  Donald Carty and GoPro President Tony Bates to its board of directors. Fortune

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Star Wars led Disney to record profits...

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Martin Shkreli sued...

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Today's Quote

“Sumner [Redstone] and I have a more than 30-year history side-by-side building his media empire. He and the board of Viacom, believing in my abilities and character, have entrusted me with weighty responsibilities, none of which are inconsistent or incompatible."

“Some of the decline in the recent past was accentuated by a lot of noise that surrounded us....I think it’s obvious to everybody what the noise is.” —Viacom Chairman and CEO Philippe Dauman WSJ

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