I’ve had a couple of days of much-needed rest to recover from the crazy campaign cycle which has given me time to reflect on the results of Tuesday’s elections without running the risk of over-reacting.
President Obama’s victory on Tuesday night was a stark reminder to Mitt Romney supporters of two things: 1) It’s really tough to defeat an incumbent, and 2) In order to defeat an incumbent, the challenger has to be someone people can rally around and get enthused about. Remember 2004? BDS was in its hey-day and in the end, more people voted for someone they liked than someone they didn’t. It’s amazing the clarity that hindsight can provide.
Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t. Let’s be honest, fellow conservatives: were we motivated more by voting Mitt Romney into office or by voting Barack Obama out of office? With few exceptions, I think the answer is quite obvious. Fewer people thought Obama was deserving of a second term than in 2008, but not enough thought the other guy was more deserving. That’s not to say that those who wanted desperately to dislodge Obama from the presidency didn’t feel good or were ambivalent about Romney. Speaking for myself, I was looking forward to a real leader in the White House and I know many others feel the same way. However, this is where the Obama campaign, in its glorious cynicism, succeeded. All those negative ads portraying Mitt Romney as a money-hungry, heartless capitalist while portraying Obama as someone who “cares about the middle class” worked. They worked not because folks like negative campaigns, but because it planted enough doubt in enough people to make a 2-3% difference. That was the difference in this election.
Lesson for the GOP apparatus: Encourage, promote and nominate candidates people can actually get EXCITED about. Like the Democrats did in 2008 (not in 2004). Forget about demographic shifts and all that other mind-numbing, stat-crunching mumbo-jumbo. Put someone up who people will be motivated to support. Not just with their vote, but with their time, energy and talent. The rest will take care of itself. For what it’s worth, I think Mitt Romney ran a good campaign. He came close to unseating a popular president. It just wasn’t enough. If there was something the Romney campaign could have done better was in marketing Gov. Romney more in the months leading up to the general election. Romney gained a lot of ground in October, but it ended up being too little, too late.
Beat them at their own game. Here’s something else the GOP can learn from 2012: You can’t run campaigns the good ol’ fashioned way anymore. This means conservatives have to embrace the methods used by the Democratic Party, namely GOTV and a huge, grassroots-based ground game. I know those are dirty words for many conservatives, but let’s face reality. Intellectual arguments and the blogosphere are fine and well, but it’s not enough. A motivated, energized and diverse campaign strategy is what is needed. Again, the right candidate will naturally bring about these strategies, but we have to accept the notion that campaigns in the ’10s aren’t run the same way as in the ’90s or even the ’00s.
The Tea Party movement exhibits many of these elements, but it needs to be taken to the next level. Conservatives of all stripes need to get involved in every facet of our community, from colleges to minority groups to senior citizens, and everyone in between. This means getting our hands dirty, going to places and doing things we think are “not worth it”.
Conservative ideas are winning ideas, but if they don’t get disseminated in ways people can understand and relate to, then they might as well be totally wrong.
With these thoughts in mind, let’s start working on 2014 and 2016. It’s not too late to change the direction of our country, but “the early bird gets the worm”.
BTW…just heard Marco Rubio is going to Iowa next week.
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