As the former chairman of Newt Gingrich's political organization when he was U.S. Speaker of the House -- we ran a national convention in San Diego in 1996 -- I can tell you that no presidential candidate wants to arrive in town only to be booed by the local citizenry. Of course, the Bush crowd could care less, because they have absolutely no love for John McCain, whether they'll admit it or not. They can't fool me.
Then there are the members of Congress, in Georgia and Minnesota, who have stuck their neck out for Delta and Northwest as they attempted to emerge from their respective bankruptcies. Do you think state officials in Minnesota don't regret the hundreds of millions of dollars they gave in tax breaks and other funding to save Northwest?
And what about the leaders in Georgia? Their risk is down the road. Suppose the merger goes through but becomes an even greater nightmare for those who fly out of Atlanta? What if the combined company ultimately fails? Not everyone believes that bigger is better. If that happens, I know some elected officials who can "pack their bags," because they will be on a one-way flight home from Washington.
To be fair, the two airlines say that they cannot survive financially without a merger. Perhaps that is true. But is that because of long-term inherent problems with the industry in general, or is it more accurately attributable to the temporary spike in the cost of jet fuel? And will a merger solve that problem?
Here's one thing our survey told us for sure: People in Georgia aren't thrilled with Delta's new CEO Richard Anderson. Sixty-eight percent of all Georgians said in an InsiderAdvantage survey that they had an unfavorable opinion of the $11.3 million Anderson earned for just four months' work when he took over the airline's leadership position in late 2007.
If Delta's argument to its own hometown is one about cost cutting, the message was lost in translation.
Perhaps the two airlines will and should merge. But they haven't given the public in Minnesota, Georgia or anywhere else any real reason to support their effort.