- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Attention presidential hopefuls, campaign managers and speechwriters: America is ready for a straightforward, no-nonsense leader who can ultimately unite the country.

Military service, insider status, business acumen and charisma? They’re in the also-ran category, according to a Gallup poll released yesterday that defines the “absolutely essential” qualities the nation seeks in its 44th commander in chief.

“Americans are looking for an honest person who has strong leadership skills above all else,” said Gallup analyst Jeffrey M. Jones, adding that managerial competence plays a close second.

“A majority also say it is essential that the next president focuses on uniting the country. Americans assign far less importance to the candidate’s experience, including whether they have served in Washington,” Mr. Jones said.

The survey asked people to describe presidential qualities in their own words. The results reveal that Americans pine for traditional values and ideals, and are deeply concerned about the solvency of the nation. Honesty was ranked way in front, followed by leadership/strength, competence, integrity, sensitivity to public opinion and the drive to “put America first” and “focus on domestic issues,” the poll found.

Intelligence, family values, “vision for the country,” trustworthiness and the ability to either win or at least end the war in Iraq followed. Other qualities cited by the respondents, in descending order: Honorability, economic savvy, foreign-policy expertise, Christian religious views, consensus-building skills, conservatism, insight on terrorism, common sense and, last, charisma. Having a liberal background was not mentioned in the survey.

Meanwhile, Gallup also supplied 16 characteristics for respondents to rate as either essential, important or not important. Again, the idea of a strong, decisive leader was deemed fundamental by 77 percent and important by 22 percent. Moral character was in second place, followed by effective management, ability to unite the country, consistency on issues, foreign-policy experience and respect for public opinion.

Whether candidates have been faithful to a spouse, taken drugs, run a business, gone to church, worked in Washington or are even eloquent speakers are in the bottom tier of concerns. Military service is ranked dead last.

The survey gauged potential vexations for those already on the campaign trail.

It predicted that Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, New York Democrat, and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, a Republican, could irritate voters by flip-flopping on such high-profile issues as the Iraq war in Mrs. Clinton’s case and abortion in Mr. Romney’s. The public’s flagging interest in flawless marriages favors Republicans former New York City Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich — both have been married three times. Sen. John McCain, Arizona Republican, probably won’t pick up much traction with voters for his Vietnam-era military service, the survey said, as 57 percent of the respondents don’t view military service as being “that important.”

The Gallup survey of 1,006 adults was conducted March 26 to 29 and has a margin of error of three percentage points.

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