Yesh Atid leader Yair Lapid and his wife Lihi kiss at a women's committee convention in Tel Aviv.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
How did Yair Lapid claw his way back from at one point polling around 10 Knesset mandates with Moshe Kahlon’s new Kulanu party threatening to tear deep into his constituency further?
In the latest polls, some had Lapid’s party, Yesh Atid, at 13 seats, while there are predictions that he could even get up to 15 seats – leaving Kahlon at possibly half his size closer to 8 seats (despite some pre-election season predictions of him reaching 15 seats.)
Where did Lapid and his Yesh Atid party far outperform Kahlon, who had the advantage of being the new blood and new excitement in the game, advantages Lapid had in 2013, but was notably missing this time?
What did Lapid do in some ways better than even some of the parties that will be large than him like Likud and Labor, but which have dropped or plateaued in the polls over the last few months, whereas Yesh Atid has noticeably grown?
Yesh Atid strategist Mark Mellman has told The Jerusalem Post that much of the success has come from the contrast of Lapid sticking to a positive and substantive issue-oriented message versus other parties which have run largely negative campaigns.
There may be some truth to that, and it certainly seems that the Likud’s negative campaign attacking the Zionist Union’s security credentials or Yisrael Beytenu’s campaign against aspects of Israeli-Arab society has not raised either of their poll numbers.
But Zionist Union has run a mostly anti-Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu campaign and has not lost ground and possibly even made modest gains in the polls and negative campaigning has been proven to work effectively in many instances in Israel and other democracies.
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There is another far more simple and basic reason.
Lapid really likes campaigning, his charisma makes him good at it and he does far more of it than his rivals.
This is in contrast to most top Israeli politicians who dislike campaigning, view it as an obligatory chore and often limit themselves to a small number of big ticket media interviews and high-profile speeches.
Like in 2013, Lapid has been exhaustively hopping across the country with audiences and local meetings of varying sizes and revels in the experience.
When he is questioned about why he allegedly failed on a past campaign promise or on standing up for one of his core constituencies, one can see that he is ready to seize the opportunity to bring his disappointed questioner back under his umbrella by convincing his accusers of his accomplishments.
Netanyahu hardly does any events with “common people,” let alone people who might ask him hard and troublesome questions about vulnerable issues, such as his housing policy.
He also just makes fewer appearances, using the excuse of needing to govern to cover-up that after over nine years of rule, he no longer relishes campaigning for the right to stay in his seat the way he did in 1996.
Back then, he was the new blood trying to unseat the establishment candidate then prime minister Shimon Peres.
Zionist Union number two Tzipi Livni can barely smile in campaign appearances, and when she does campaign, the smile and the campaigning itself is obviously forced.
Her number one, Isaac Herzog, seems to smile more naturally while campaigning, but as obviously intelligent as he is, has very little charisma, describing himself at times as a Levi Eshkol kind of prime minister (read: very little charisma.)
Herzog has also been accused of having a light campaign schedule for significant parts of election season, though he has gotten more active as time passed.
Many voters see through campaign appearances which are staged and where the candidate would rather be anywhere else versus campaigners who are authentic where the candidate is enjoying himself.
Charisma is not a requirement for being prime minister, but it absolutely is a turn-on for voters and can convert undecided voters who have direct contact with someone like Lapid into new or returned constituents.
But returning to the biggest point and the one which has made the most difference in the zero sum competition over some similar middle class economy-focused voters between Lapid and Kahlon – Lapid has just made more campaign stops.
Kahlon has a healthy dose of charisma and is more comfortable when he is out in the field than some other politicians, but he made far fewer campaign stops than Lapid and started later.
Both politicians will be forces in the next Knesset, but if Lapid has double the size, his hyper campaign style may account for his party being nearly double Kahlon’s party’s size.
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