We all know what David Axelrod and the Chicago machine have planned. They will attack Romney on his business record, have surrogates attack his religion – then denounce the attack after the outrageous slur makes its rounds in the media – and attack the Republican Party as “obstructionist.”
Republicans are good at dealing with the first two but horrible at the last one. And the last one is the most important.
People will forgive a man for making a lot of money. Hell, they’d love to do it too. And they understand the basic concepts of how people do it. So the Bain issue may rile the anti-capitalist base, but it won’t shift many votes. They also don’t much care Romney is a Mormon. Few people know much about the Mormon faith, but fewer still care. The Mormons they know – if they’re aware they know any – tend to be nice people and good neighbors.
That leaves the third point – the “obstructionist gambit.”
The best-kept secret in the media for the last year and a half is that Democrats control the US Senate. Everyone knows what “Speaker of the House” means and that it’s currently a Republican. Few realize the Speaker controls half of one branch of Congress. We never hear about the 27 jobs bill Republicans have passed in the House that the Senate refused to consider.
We do hear it when Republicans refuse to move on Democrats’ proposals, even when those proposals don’t exist beyond the concept stage. How many people know today is day 1,145 since Democrats passed a budget in the Senate?
Forget waiting on the media to honestly report this. It ain’t gonna happen.
Today, thanks to the Internet, the 24-hour news cycle has become the 24-second cycle. Each hour has its own narrative. You may win one, but there’s another right behind it. It’s even tougher when the referees in the media play for the other team.
President Reagan could talk over the media to the people, but Mitt Romney will have to accomplish this with ads.
The campaign, the party and outside groups all must work to educate Americans not only about President Obama’s failures but the truth behind his lies. We need pre-emptive strikes about who controls the Senate, all the Republican jobs bills the president and his party have refused even to consider and the refusal by Democrats even to propose legislation as a starting point. It has to be regular, entertaining and, most importantly, sustained.
Republicans need to step outside their comfort zone, throw away the Marquis of Queensbury Rules and remember: If you’re responding, you’re losing.
They must learn to anticipate Democrats’ arguments, say them first, frame them, then destroy them before they get legs. All campaigns find themselves reacting at least some of the time to things they didn’t see coming. But for the most part, every enemy bomb should be disarmed and dismantled before opponents even think of building the silo.
Entertaining ads – humorous when possible – that get right to the point of one issue each, one inconvenient fact, will do more than dozens of speeches reduced by the media to 10-second sound bites. Good ads are easy to write, inexpensive to produce (if creative people who care about the cause are employed) and will have even greater impact when run on “Real Housewives” or some other un-stereotypically conservative program. If done right, having good, tight ads, run on carefully chosen shows can reach more people than having an entire nightly 30-minute newscast devoted to your campaign.
Republicans are good at rebuttal. They are good at producing videos, several minutes in duration, that take apart the claims of their opponents piece by piece. But those videos too often reach only the choir – regardless of how many hits they get. The trick is not to respond but to set the conversation by producing 30-second videos with some humor and pop and get them out for the rest of the unengaged nation to see.
Don’t run the same stuffy dry campaign. Force the Democrats to have the best rapid-response team. If they’re doing rapid response, we’re winning.
The battle is going to happen. Better we choose the field and set the terms.
The pieces are all there for a major Republican victory this fall. The facts are all on Republicans’ side. But this is helpful in politics, not decisive, particularly when your opponent is a well-known enigma. Republicans can’t truly redefine President Obama at this point, but they can define the terms and times of engagement. Barring the unforeseen and barring a return to business-as-usual campaigning, that should be enough.
Republicans can win, should win, if they approach this in a smart, efficient matter. Unfortunately, recent history suggests this is a big if.