Where Do We Go From Here?
First of all, to those who are now sniping at Mitt Romney because he wasn’t a “real” conservative or talking about his healthcare plan in Mass. as the reason the GOP lost, stop it. You sound like those wannabe sports dorks who talk about how if they were a GM, they’d be able to work a deal for the Miami Heat to trade away scrubs and 1 or 2 draft picks for Kobe and Dwight Howard. Just stop.
The bottom line is, the Obama campaign ran the better campaign and their GOTV effort is in a league of its own. Ironically, they ran the same kind of race George W. Bush won in 2004 (and it makes me cringe to say that Oliver Willis was right, but he said it was like 2004). It’s easy to marvel at Axelrod and Plouffe but the fact of the matter is, they followed the playbook established by Karl Rove. They simply improved upon it, micro-targeting voters all over the country as well as using social media and the Internet to their fullest extent. I admit that I was very impressed.
President Bush and Dick Cheney along with Rove, had ice in their veins. When they saw an opportunity to attack Kerry, they did, regardless of what the media would say. They knew the electorate was smart enough to see beyond the defense the media would play for Kerry (as they did). The Romney team meanwhile, too often took their cues from the media. They would say something that was 100% correct, but then backtrack after the media cried foul. Bush and Cheney never did that. Remember how long the media caterwauled about Bush not calling out the swiftboat attacks? Bush and Cheney basically thumbed their noses at the press and said, “Suck it.” The Romney team would immediately try “damage control” whenever the media yipped, and when they did, they would offer muddled explanations and it only made things worse.
But it’s more than that. There will be no more elections like 2004. That’s the last one the GOP can win with the changing demographics of the country. Let’s face it. The GOP has lost the popular vote in 5 out of the last 6 elections. It will only get worse unless the GOP goes strong on ideas that appeal to:
A. Minority voters (particularly Latino voters)
B. Working class voters
Don’t get me wrong. The GOP does not have to try and hijack left wing ideas. It’s not the ideas. Conservative ideas are more popular than liberal ideas. Mitt Romney lost, despite carrying a 52-47 advantage on who would be better for the economy, which was the number one concern of the majority of voters (60%). Part of it is the message and I will get to that in a moment but there are three things which the GOP needs to do in order to start hitting the two targets above.
- Real immigration reform – Clearly the GOP has fumbled on the issue of immigration. George W. Bush carried 40% of the Latino vote and it was largely due to the fact that he didn’t come off as a hard liner on the issue. Forget about fences and borders. Forget about crap like the DREAM Act. The GOP has often spoken of doing something about the bureaucratic nightmare it is to legally become a citizen in this country. The wait time for any immigrant that has no naturalization is nearly 10 years. That is outrageous. And it is all bureacracy, nothing more. Really, go look at this Wikipedia entry for permanent residence status. It’s a freaking joke. The next candidate would do well to say they will slash that wait time by 70%. It can be done. It needs to be done, and its a winning idea. Who would oppose it?
- Go big on school choice and home schooling – 10-15 years ago, school choice and home schooling was an issue relegated largely to religious families who wanted to get their kids out of the “immoral public school system.” Nowadays more and more parents are choosing to home school their kids because the public schools simply suck and parents who cannot afford to stay home and educate their kids would love to send them to private or parochial schools. The teachers unions have lost this battle. That Chicago teachers strike? Ten years ago they would have gotten what they wanted after 2 days. This time they lost. School choice is very popular and home schooling has become so much better (and easier for parents) due to technology. All of the “concerns” about parents teaching abilities went out the window when some states established virtual schools. Florida’s is second to none. Without additional costs, kids can do school in a virtual environment with access to teachers and still be considered a home school student. Therefore, they don’t have to take idiotic standardized tests. That would be dessert. Want to win over parents (and teachers)? Promise the elimination of standardized testing which does nothing to measure actual achievement. Recruit Geoffrey Canada and Sir Ken Robinson to help overhaul the system from the ground up.
- Go bold on entitlement reform – This election proved the scare tactics from the Democrats about Medicare and Social Security do not work. Mitt Romney won big with those 50 and over and they represent 34 percent of the electorate. It’s time for means testing and Democrats cannot counter it. If they think a wealthy 64 year old should pay more in taxes, why can’t that same rich person pay more for Medicare? It’s not about paying a “fair share.” It’s about paying your own way.
These are ideals the GOP needs to start building upon now.
The big thing the GOP needs to do is improve their message game. It’s not hard. There are two key things:
1. Get better at social media and the Internet. The Obama camp had better designers, better web developers, better social media outreach and made better use of the Internet to spread their message. The GOP is still lagging behind in this area for some reason. They really need to step up their game. They need to really start getting into the weeds with regard to voter registration.
2. Adopt the Newt/Christie approach to the media – It’s not about the “liberal” media so much as it is about the stupid media and the lazy media. When a candidate complains about the press, it merely means they are losing that battle. The American people do not trust the media and enjoy it when they get called out for their nonsense. Watch Gingrich and Christie when they deal with the media. It’s awesome. They will tell a reporter, “That question was idiotic” because many questions are.
3. Message discipline – After the Todd Akin debacle, Republicans should have known some of those idiotic questions were going to come. Candidates need to be prepared for that kind of thing. Richard Mourdock’s comments about abortion were nothing like what that idiot Todd Akin said but that doesn’t matter. It came on the heels of what Akin said and that is all it took. Winning is often about message discipline. The GOP has seen too many opportunities go away because of their lack of discipline. Instill it.
When the number one issue on the minds of voters is the economy and the candidate who wins on that issue and carries independents, loses the race, it’s time to re-think the process. The GOP can start with what I outlined. We’ll see what happens.