Republicans have to offer their message to everyone, everywhere with courage and conviction. Republicans can win seats they never thought they could win in 2010 only with competent, articulate candidates offering something different than a $20 trillion national debt and a trail of broken promises about change.
Second, to take back Congress Republicans have to run smart, upstart campaigns that aren’t afraid to use surprise and aggressive tactics. Republicans can’t win by running campaigns as if the GOP were still in charge. Newsflash to GOP candidates: no one is going to parachute into your district with $4 million this election year.
GOP candidates now have to prepare to do their own heavy lifting. They have to hire smart campaign teams who know how to win insurgent campaigns; they have to build real relationships with voters, not rely entirely on expensive television ads and direct mail pieces; they must run aggressive campaigns that take fast advantage of their opponent’s mistakes; and they must raise their campaign’s cash instead of relying on someone else to save them when they fall short.
Sure, Republicans will be outspent by the Democrats in 2010 – maybe by as much as 30% or 40% -- but that doesn’t mean Republicans won’t have enough money to convey their message. Look at 2006 to see how a dramatically outspent Democrat Party capitalized on a sour national mood and candidates committed to winning.
Finally, to take back Congress in 2010 the GOP will have to articulate a positive vision for the future of America. Republicans won’t win by continuing to define the Party solely by what it is not. “We’re not them” will only get Republicans so far and it’s not far enough to regain the House. Republicans must convince America they have new ideas and that those ideas will provide real benefits to families by making them safer, more prosperous, and more hopeful.
Specifics are important because they establish the plan as rational, credible and doable. But the message needn’t be unduly burdened or delayed by a comprehensive agenda. Most Americans couldn’t tell you what was in the Contract with America in 1994. Voters only knew it represented a distinction with the nationalized health care agenda of Hillary Clinton.
Only a few months after Obama’s inauguration, Americans are slowly awakening to the reality that Obama’s “change-you-can-believe-in” was a rhetorical sham. His budget, his bailouts, his stimulus, his earmarks, and his groveling to European leaders show a president more committed to a leftist agenda than to the principled change on which he campaigned.
It all amounts to a great opportunity for Republicans. But the gap between a good year and a great one remains massive. To cross it, Republicans have to put first things first – something they haven’t done well in recent elections -- recruit, smarten up, and get a message that motivates, contrasts and energizes.
If the GOP does that, Eric Cantor’s comments about Republican prospects in 2010 will look more prescient than wishful. All the elements are falling into place for a GOP wave in 2010. If the Republican Party and its candidates do their part, it seems likely at this point America’s voters will do the rest.