First, a confession and then a boast. For all the years I have been writing about politics, I have never been able to establish a steady source of leaks. That puts me at a terrible disadvantage compared with the other political columnists, and deprives you, the readers, of the good, juicy, inside stuff you love.
Now the good news: For the 1986 campaign year, I have signed a contract for exclusive leaks from Padraic Cardwell, one of the nation's top pollsters and public psychologists. Padraic the Magician, as he is known, is a man who can transform an unemployed ex-governor or a second-rate senator into presidential material. Today's memo is the first of several scheduled leaks from the Master of Media Manipulation you will be reading exclusively in this space. It was sent last week to New York Gov. Mario M. Cuomo:
" You asked me how I think you came out of last week's fight about prejudice against Italian Americans and other ethnic groups. Frankly, you blew it.
"I can understand your getting sore when Brand X (another political column) said your candidacy for the 1988 Democratic nomination could run into problems in the South because there aren't any Marios down in Dixie. You got all puffed up and said that it showed how much some bigots hate people with vowels at the end of their names.
"That response is bad politics because it is based on sloppy analysis. Our research shows the American people are very tolerant of vowels and are indifferent to their placement in the name. The critical factor in determining how well you (or any other candidate) will do in the presidential race is not the number of vowels, but the ratio of consonants to vowels -- what we call the C-factor.
"We have just completed the most sophisticated study ever done on voter reaction to candidate names. In oversimplified terms, vowels connote softness and compassion, while consonants (with their hard edges) suggest strength and decisiveness. Each letter has its own relative weight, but you don't need to know the details. What you must understand is that people want a good C-factor in their leader, and his name is where they look for it. My computer whiz has run all of the presidential matchups back to the Civil War, and in all but three races, the candidate with the better C-factor balance of consonants to vowels has won. The exceptions came in times of scandal, recession or war.
"The bad news, governor, is that no candidate with a C-factor of less than 620 has ever been elected. The name by which you're now known, Mario Cuomo, has six vowels and only four consonants -- a fatal 400 C-factor.
"We've been gaming several possible strategies here. We considered having you change your name. One of our more liter- ary guys suggested Martin Chuzzlewit (to cash in on the Dickens craze.) That's got a C-factor of more than 700 and bonus points for the double Z. It should be a winner, but considering the trouble Gary Hart had in 1984 with his name change, we decided not to recommend it.
"There's a safer and better way to deal with the problem. We have to change your moniker, without changing your legal name. How? By using our heads -- and your initials.
"Your great predecessor in Albany did not get elected president four times as Franklin Delano Roosevelt. He was FDR -- with an unbeatable C-factor of 1000.
"Lyndon Baines Johnson won his landslide when the country went "All the Way with LBJ" -- another 1000 C-factor. John F. Kennedy couldn't even get on the ticket until he became JFK: C-factor 1000. In our own time, Ronald Reagan (C-factor 585) might have lost to Walter Mondale, but when Reagan became the Gipper (four hard consonants, including the powerful double P, bracketing two of the quiet vowels, for a C-factor of 810), Mondale was finished.
"What I'm getting to is that as quickly as possible, we want to reintroduce you to the public, not as Mario Cuomo, but as MC.
"There's no historical precedent for a two- initial tag catching on, but if we are going to save your candidacy, we've got to take risks.
"Opening strategies we suggest are these: All your aides, in talking to reporters, should refer to you as MC. You should sign your correspondence the same way. All buttons, billboards and literature for the reelection campaign will include the line, MC for Me. We will get a ghostwriter to do a book with Mrs. Cuomo to be titled, 'Me and MC.'
"It will work. And the beauty of it is, it will subliminally position you perfectly to be Ronald Reagan's successor. He has subtly but successfully conditioned the country to think of the president as the nation's Master of Ceremonies -- the Big MC.
"We will look for events where you can appear in a tuxedo, to strengthen the identification of you as being in the great Bert Parks- Ronald Reagan tradition.
"I don't think I have to tell you the importance of keeping this memo and the outlined strategy confidential.