We want somebody who is smart, but intelligence is not nearly enough. What they believe is more important than how well they think. But I much prefer a candidate who understands the concept and principles they espouse well enough to defend their positions against the opposition they are sure to encounter. If all they know about capitalism or democracy is basic hot button talking points, not only will they have a difficult time persuading others to their cause, they will more likely capitulate to pressure to change their position.
Solid principles have stood the test of time and adversity. However bright a candidate may be experience is important. Experience is more than how old they are. There is a difference between ten years of experience and a single year’s experience repeated ten times. A leader needs experience to have firsthand knowledge that has caused them to question their beliefs and principles. It is easy to be convinced by a compelling well spoken argument, but experience allows you to see alternatives and weaknesses. Having experienced serious setbacks and uncertainty is good preparation for the top job, but it is most valuable because it brings humility with the candidate.
A political leader needs life and work experience to support their principles, but they also need political experience to know how to get things done in Washington. I get concerned by candidates that have never held political office starting out by seeking the job of the presidency. It is not enough to know what to do or be successful in the private sector. Political savvy does not come with a manual at inauguration. Knowing what to do is worthless if you cannot get it done.
Just because those with experience have fouled up does not mean that inexperience is an asset. Just because a problem was created by the intelligent does not mean it can be fixed by fools.
Finally there must be character. Trust requires more than competence, the knowledge of knowing what to do. One must be willing to do so as well. It does no good to campaign on a pledge of “no new taxes” when that pledge is broken during the first sign of stress.
Even a candidate with intelligence, the right principles, experience and trustworthy character is faced with uncertainty that can overwhelm these qualifications. But the lack of these four essential ingredients can make normal problems worse and tarnish their party for elections yet to come.