Basically, if Republicans think it’s in the bag, they need to think again. The economic numbers may only be slightly improving, but so is the president’s approval rating. The reason Obama is up and Republicans are floundering centers on message discipline. Like his message or not, Obama’s is clear and deliberate. The message from Republicans? We don’t know how the game of musical chairs will end. That’s not a good beginning to an election that will be about who can best adopt the 2004 strategy that got President George W. Bush reelected.
In 2004, Bush defeated Sen. Kerry (D-Mass) with an extremely disciplined campaign that was simple and memorable. You might remember hearing, “even if you disagree with him, you know where he stands.” And you did. Kerry’s campaign was all over the place, both in operation and in messaging. In 2008, Obama’s campaign took Bush’s blueprint and added the internet. With young people and small, private donations, it created the most masterful campaigns we’ve ever seen.
And he’s poised to do it again. Republicans seemed to have their stuff together in 2010 (with the possible exception of Alaska’s Joe Miller and Delaware’s Christine O’Donnell). America knew what their message was and what a vote for a Republican/tea party candidate would get them: smaller government. Smaller government was a simple concept. In the space of a bumper sticker, it embodied an entire political philosophy that people could identify with. With it came a new party in charge at the U.S. House of Representatives and seat gains in the Senate.
Yet 2012 has arrived and Republicans are all over the place.
The likely nominee, Gov. Mitt Romney is losing his reputation as a disciplined speaker with two gaffes in less than a month that write Obama’s campaign commercials all by themselves. (see “I like firing people” and “I’m not concerned about the very poor”) Although his comments are justifiable in context, we don’t live in an age of context. He’s not helping himself or his fellow Republicans with unforced errors like those.
Add to that elected Republicans who are, for the most part, standing on the sidelines looking wearily at the Stepford candidate who has a Swiss Bank account. They don’t want to commit. No, they really don’t want to commit. The longer the party takes to coalesce around a winning candidate, the longer it will take to get a unifying message out to rival Obama’s.
Assuming he’s the nominee, Romney has to align himself with House Republicans in order to gain support from grass roots folks, aka Sarah’s army. He needs to find a way to whittle his campaign down to a clear message that people can digest in a single sitting.
For their part, House Republicans have to sell their message better to America in order not to be fired as part of an ousting of a “do-nothing Congress.” They do have a leg to stand on, although they haven’t gotten their message out very well. The “no” votes that have played so big in the media have overshadowed the large amount of legislation the House has passed in an attempt to curb big government. They need to turn that action into a campaign.
The bottom line is this: if ANY Republican wants to win, they’ve ALL got to be united with one message, and they’ve got to do it soon.