The election is 102 days from today. Despite the insane length of the U.S. election process, unknown anywhere else in the world, the candidates spend only a small portion of the total making their cases to this large country as official nominees. With the intense news coverage, chin-stroking punditry, and partisan bloviating of the past 13 months about to get turbo-charged, we could all use a couple of thoughts to hang on to, helping us judge what’s happening from day to crazy day. So here’s a suggestion, not my own, which I suspect will prove useful.
It comes from consultant Frank Luntz, who has possibly listened to more focus groups than anyone else in the country. He gained fame in the 1990s as a pollster and language analyst for political candidates, mostly Republicans, plus others around the world. In 2014 he sold a majority stake in his polling business but has recently conducted research for non-political clients such as Google and Snapchat. His view of what will decide this election is at the website of our sister publication, Time.
The short answer is that the critical factor will indeed be undecided voters, as many analysts have said, but those voters aren’t who most people think. Some of them are “useless,” he says. They don’t know or care about the candidates or the process, and their opinions are passionate but unstable. Trying to win them over is pointless. The other group of undecideds “know a lot about both candidates and don’t like either one.” Those voters, he says, will decide the election.
Luntz describes in detail what these voters want and don’t want in a candidate, and his analysis is worth reading. But if you can’t get to it right know, just remember this insight: “The candidate that is most engaging and least offensive is the candidate who wins this essential bloc—and therefore the election. They’ll tell you, and tell themselves, that they’re voting for the candidate with the best ideas. But they’re really voting for the one who they believe is most ‘on their side.’ In the end, subtlety will sway more undecided voters than the sledgehammer.”
I’m about to take two weeks off, but I leave you in the best of hands. Next week you’ll hear from Fortune editor, writer, and leadership expert Jennifer Reingold. The following week, the week of August 8, our Washington authority Tory Newmyer will share his deeply informed perspective. Ryan Derousseau will continue to assemble the links and summaries that appear below. I can’t wait to read what they create. I’ll be back with you on August 15.
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What We’re Reading Today
Alphabet revenues jump…
…24% on the rise of mobile advertising. But “moonshot” projects at Larry Page‘s company lost $859 million in the latest quarter on revenue of $185 million, which is more than double year-ago revenue. The only three businesses bringing in sales are Google Fiber, Nest, and Verily, according to past reports. While Page is committed to the moonshots, investors may be losing patience as losses climb. Re/Code
Microsoft to cut more jobs
Satya Nadella‘s company increased planned job cuts by 2,850, bringing the total to 4,700 by next July. Most of the cuts will be in the smartphone hardware business, which the company bought from Nokia in 2014 for $7.6 billion. Fortune
Tesla employees wary of Autopilot
A former Tesla engineer road-tested Autopilot in mid-2015 and was pulled over on suspicion of drunk driving because the car didn’t handle turns well. The employee admits he was testing the technology’s limits but says he knew drivers would do the same. As Elon Musk pushes Autopilot forward, despite the recent death of a driver using the feature, some employees say the CEO often dismissed concerns that he felt were “overly cautious.” CNNMoney
Judge rules Redstone case can move forward
The Massachusetts judge rejected Viacom CEO Philippe Dauman‘s request for an immediate investigation to determine Sumner Redstone‘s mental capacity. The case centers on whether Redstone had the capacity to remove Dauman and fellow Viacom director George Abrams as trustees of his trust and from the National Amusements board, which controls voting shares of Viacom. In Delaware, a separate hearing will help decide if Redstone has the capacity to oust Dauman and four others from Viacom’s board. Los Angeles Times
Building a Better Leader
A CEO group’s governance advice…
…doesn’t please everyone, predictably. The group, which included Warren Buffett and GE’s Jeff Immelt, discouraged non-executive board members from speaking individually with investors. But some governance commentators say that policy isn’t always wise. Harvard Business Review
To counteract the health dangers of sitting…
…you must be active by a ratio of one to eight — for every eight hours sitting, devote at least an hour to activity, which needn’t be rigorous. Fortune
Advice from Mark Zuckerberg’s dad…
… on raising successful kids: Don’t try to determine your child’s skills. Instead, “support their strengths and support the development of the things they’re passionate about.” Inc.
The Democratic Convention Wraps Up
Hillary Clinton accepts the nomination
Her speech labeled the election a “moment of reckoning” and made the case for her unique ability to handle the issues the U.S. faces. She acknowledged that some don’t trust her but positioned herself as a steady hand, saying about Donald Trump, “a man you can bait with a tweet is not a man we can trust with nuclear weapons.” Fortune
On being the first woman…
…to be nominated for president by a major party, she said, “when there are no ceilings, the sky’s the limit.” Many families with daughters watched Clinton accept the nomination. Clinton will continue strengthening her connection with women voters, a group with which Trump lags badly. USA Today
Father of killed Muslim soldier challenges Trump
Khizr Khan, father of a U.S. Army captain who was killed in action, spoke about his son’s love of America. Khan then held up a copy of the U.S. Constitution, saying to Trump, “you are asking Americans to trust you with our future. Let me ask you: Have you even read the U.S. Constitution? I will gladly lend you my copy.” Washington Post
Up or Out
Forrest Mars Jr., former president of his family’s candy company, Mars Inc., died Tuesday at age 84. NYT
Fortune Reads and Videos
Chipotle to open a hamburger joint
The restaurant, “Tasty Made,” will open in Columbus, Ohio, and will focus on customizable meals. Fortune
New Uber feature…
…allows businesses to book rides for their customers. It’s an attempt by Travis Kalanick‘s company to capture the lucrative hotel market. Fortune
Now that Elon Musk is reading Twelve Against the Gods…
…the book is sold out on Amazon. It’s almost 90 years old. Fortune
Maybe Apple should take a page from Samsung…
…to revive iPhone sales. Samsung began a turnaround by focusing on the features that attracted users to the phones in the first place. Fortune