Every election cycle, Republicans become their own worst enemies. Both the candidates and RNC insiders are regularly told by consultants that they need to win over the mainstream media, focus only on independent voters, and never say anything negative about their opposition. This strategy is a massive waste of time, and a recipe for defeat.
It’s playing out now during the GOP primaries. Candidates are discouraged from saying anything about President Barack Obama the man, and are instead told only to focus on his policies. Then, the media can see how Republicans are nice, and independents will come over and vote for them. If, however, they attack Obama, bring up his past associations or his socialistic views, they’d send the independents running back across the isle.
This strategy is based on a flawed premise that doesn’t work.
The accepted theory among election strategists is that during every election cycle, 40% automatically vote Republican and 40% automatically vote Democrat. The remaining 20% are independents. By taking their own 40% for granted and ignoring the Democratic 40% entirely, they only focus on trying to garner independent votes, for which they feel the need to water down their views. But, why?
Many of the old guard in today’s media like ABC News’ George Stephanopolous began their careers working for Democrats. During the Fox News debate on Monday, one of the moderators was Juan Williams, another liberal pundit. I wonder how many Democrats in 2008 would have shown up to a debate moderated by Ann Coulter?
The old theories can be tossed aside. At 40%, conservatives are the largest ideological group in the country. Moderates clock in at 35%, and liberals at only 21%. It would make much more sense today to simply say what you believe in an honest manner, and then go after your opponent. People respond to contrast more than pandering.
Not only should the GOP stop catering to a perceived 20% of the electorate, they should stop taking conservatives for granted. Nothing irks Republicans more than when one of their own speaks in an apologetic tone regarding their beliefs. This also has the unpleasant effect of looking incredibly weak to those who are still searching.
Nice guy campaigns don’t work, don’t win media approval, and don’t win ‘independent’ votes. John McCain regularly called the media “his base,” and proceeded to get slaughtered at the polls. Compare that to Gingrich, who did not catch fire until he called out the media on biased moderating and called Obama a socialist. Republicans want a firebrand, not a nice guy who will take one for the team. This most likely almost explains why Jon Huntsman, who ran on the McCain model, never really caught fire.
All one has to do is look back at history. The GOP won its biggest victories not only when it ran great conservative candidates, but when their campaigns were unapologetic and bold. The general elections of 1980, '84, and '88, as well as the congressional landslides of 1994 and 2010, weren’t outliers. Nice guy campaigns give you 1996 and 2008.
Whoever becomes the GOP nominee needs to campaign to everyone, and not just one group. They also need to realize that the Obama campaign will hit them with everything they can. You don’t win a battle by nobly standing still and getting shot. If you fight for what you believe, not only will you electrify your own base; you’ll make it grow. And stop worrying about the media; they’ve already cast their vote.
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