The people you need to woo are not the political junkies -- the folks who watch political talk shows and already know who you are. Nor are they the growing numbers of apathetic Americans who are disengaged from public life and don't even bother to show up at the polls. The people you need to woo are the antipolitical voters. These people are concerned with the state of the nation but cynical; they are interested in politics but disgusted by the way it is currently practiced. They don't see why there has to be so much conflict, so many scripted attacks, so much wasted energy.
They long for leaders who are not cast in the usual political mold, and who therefore seem capable of changing the tenor of American politics. In past elections, both national and local, these voters have swooned over such unconventional possibilities as Ross Perot, Jesse Ventura, Colin Powell, and John McCain. And they are ready to swoon over you -- but you've got to get out of your cave.
Excerpted from The Atlantic Monthly (Oct. 2003). Subscriptions: $29.95/yr. (10 issues) from Box 37584, Boone, IA 50037.