After my last post, some readers asked me what Schulz could have done differently. Well, there is no obvious answer. To begin with, elections are usually decided by one big, defining issue. In the last German election, that one issue was obviously the refugee crisis. The problem is that on that particular issue, neither Schulz nor the SPD can show an appealing, credible difference to Angela Merkel and the CDU.
Another problem was timing. Schulz became the top candidate at the end of January. He certainly had a lifelong experience as a politician in Brussels, but with respect to campaign skills, he entered the race mostly unprepared. It’s close to impossible to launch an effective campaign within eight months. As a consultant, I have been in similar situations where I had to turn down lucrative projects a few weeks before the election simply because it was too late.
Finally, the candidate Schulz and the party really didn’t match. As a general rule, it’s best to campaign as a free man. I assume that’s why the SPD chose Schulz. But as the Spiegel report shows, the party then apparently didn’t give the candidate the freedom he would have needed to run such a campaign. The SPD is the prisoner of the grand coalition with Merkel’s CDU and during the campaign, it made Schulz part of that prison.