Joe Manchin honors Bill Stewart, aces Political Communication 101 at the same time
Yesterday, terribly sad news came out of West Virginia that former head coach Bill Stewart had passed away of a sudden heart attack at the age of 59. Of course, this blog extends it’s sincere condolences to the family and loved ones of Coach Stewart but, at the same time, this blog cannot ignore the political implications inherent in the response to Stewart’s untimely passing.
Notable in the article announcing Stewart’s passing was a quote from former West Virginia Governor and current West Virginia Senator Joe Manchin:
U.S. Sen. Joe Manchin, who was governor at the time Stewart became head coach, said Stewart was a longtime friend who “leaves behind a lifetime of memories and love for our state.”
“Bill was a proud West Virginian in every sense of the word,” Manchin said, “and he was the best cheerleader this state ever had.”
Why is the quote from Manchin an interesting part of the dynamic of mourning and the dynamic of the passing of a prominent public figure? Because Manchin firmly understands a main tenet of political communication and the need to touch base with constituents at a basic level. If constituents are mourning, they are pleased to see a public figure mourning as well as it brings a human touch to the often abstract politician.
Is it any surprise, then, that Manchin is beyond popular in West Virginia? A recent poll found:
A new survey from R.L. Repass & Partners on behalf of the Charleston Daily Mail finds Manchin up over Republican John Raese (the guy he beat in 2010) by a beyond-comical 74-22!
This is not to suggest at all that Senator Manchin is taking advantage of Stewart’s death. Instead, what we find is a United States Senator very in touch with his constituency who understands, though he was not always popular among Mountaineer faithful, how important Coach Stewart was to the community, the university, and the entire state and he makes sure to insert himself into the mourning process.
Strong communication strategies like that explain why Senator Manchin wins a hypothetical rematch by a ridiculously crazy amount.