Mr. Barone spends much time looking at the candidates in 2008 and what they did right or wrong in the Republican field. He comes up with some succinct messages for a future candidate and I'll put those down here as lessons learned from each campaign:
John McCain - You can’t hope to win by waiting for every other candidate’s strategy to fail unless you have an in with Lady Luck.
Rudy Giuliani - You cannot wait too long to compete. If you bypass New Hampshire, you must compete in Iowa, or vice versa, or very soon thereafter.
Fred Thompson - Either compete strongly and early enough in Iowa to make a good showing in the straw poll or stay out of Iowa altogether (as John McCain did, to not significant detriment, in 2000 and effectively did, to no significant detriment, in 2008).
Mike Huckabee - Huckabee or a candidate with a similar profile can corner the votes of evangelical and born-again Christians and, starting with Iowa, can round up a significant number of delegates. It is conceivable that such a candidate, with the help of Republicans’ winner-take-all delegate allocation rules and if he continues to face multiple opponents, could accumulate enough delegates to win the nomination. But otherwise he is in the position of Jesse Jackson in the 1984 and 1988 Democratic contests, able to run a significant second or third thanks to strong support from one of the party’s core constituencies but unable to run first.
Mitt Romney - Run as yourself. Emphasize your strengths and avoid contests that are not suited to them. This will not guarantee victory, but it will make a victory in the battle for the nomination worth more in the general election, since you will not have to visibly pirouette from appealing to a relatively narrow primary electorate to the much broader (and potentially expandable) electorate you will face in the fall.
These are each succinct points about the campaigns, and they point to a cultural problem in the Republican Party as a whole: when no one else is winning, the party falls back to a 'default' Old Boy/Next In Line system. That gets you a candidate from DC insider circles who has been in DC so long as to be isolated from the Nation as a whole. Further, even with VP experience, such as Richard Nixon had running against JFK, you are not guaranteed to run a decent campaign even being through two National campaigns previously. Richard Nixon needed to ameliorate that by moving out of the shadow of Eisenhower and re-establishing his credentials outside of the Old Boy/Next In Line system to re-run again in 1968. VP Gerald Ford would run a decent campaign considering the baggage he had of pardoning Richard Nixon, but his good will and forward attitude did not end up being a sure deal sell against Jimmy Carter.
What George W. Bush, Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan, Jimmy Carter, Richard Nixon and JFK all did was establish a group of contacts that served well on a Nation-wide, on-the-ground campaign. Those local political connections into a wider party system allowed them to leverage themselves into the National spotlight, often with very little pre-established National credentials. Of those only Richard Nixon and JFK had not served as a Governor of a State, although Richard Nixon ran a close campaign for that and lost by 300,000 votes. LBJ was able to logroll his long-term service in Congress, and the legacy of JFK to his advantage in 1964, which served as his National establishment by just having wide-ranging, decades long political contacts and clout on the Hill. Barack Obama is the only President of recent vintage, outside of George H. W. Bush who won as a continuation of the Reagan Administration, to have had to start a National organization from a very poorly known set of operatives, including the Teamsters, ACORN and SEIU.
The interesting note is not that Barack Obama won over 50% of the vote, but that barely over 50% of the voting age population showed up to vote.
That statistic is not one that bodes well for either party and leaves the Nation ripe for an insurgent political movement that will go asymmetrically to the two party political system. I have written about the implications of that and it is clear: neither Democrats or Republicans are presenting a viable platform or candidates to attract voters to the polls and the increase in population and decrease in percentage at the polls is no longer working to the advantage of any party. The greatest source of votes is now OUTSIDE the two party arrangement, and not amongst traditional voting Independents, but amongst those that see the system as not representing their franchise.
Barack Obama made up for his lack of a good 'ground game' by relying on extremist political operatives and presenting an 'air game' to keep Hillary Clinton on the defensive and then picked off key races where his meager political influence could win him more votes, as a LOSER than the winner got in the primaries. John McCain did not run either an 'air game' or 'ground game' even though the problems of the Obama campaign on the ground had been seen, too late, by Hillary Clinton's campaign. The unfiltered, unaccountable money coming into the Obama campaign allowed the continued 'air game' with scant ground game that left the McCain campaign befuddled. By not putting a strong political asset on the ground to grind through Appalachia, the northern tier of States from Michigan to Oregon, and generally hitting the Obama campaign where it was weakest, culturally, the McCain campaign wasted its asset of Sarah Palin in a series of 'Hail Mary' passes in SEP and OCT 2008 that did it no good at all against the strong air campaign of Obama.
The 'winner by default' system of the Republican primary system when there is no clear leader shows a lack of ability to FIND capability and a good message. Once out of the primaries the 'ground game' needs to start immediately and NOT take three months (or more!) off from late spring to mid-summer. The long primary in the Democratic party would serve whichever won as their presence had been on television and media all the way through to JUL 2008. There was ZERO in response from the McCain campaign. By the time of the convention, McCain's campaign was already seen as moribund and could not figure out how to capitalize on a game changing VP pick. To defeat the presence of either Democratic primary leader, John McCain did not take time to establish a ground game, an air game or any strategy to actually win the Presidential election.
The lessons learned, then, from the previous campaign are serious, as the amount of CONSERVATIVES who demonstrated they were disgusted with politics as usual represented by McCain's campaign added into the already hard trend of non-voting in America. Barack Obama is now doing the difficult job of disgusting LIBERALS by his policies, lack of ability to form an agenda, inability to show any fiscal rectitude, inability to support liberty, freedom and democracy, and generally not having the ethics to do what he said he would do on 'pressing issues' while continuing to garner more power for government which means higher taxes, fewer jobs, a longer recession and a devastated economy. That will hurt the Democratic 'base' no end... and the Republican party is already finding it hard to re-attract ITS base.
The next Presidential election will be BELOW 50% turnout at this rate: neither party is attracting people to it, neither party has demonstrated that it can break with Progressivism which is making the Nation insolvent, and generally there is no difference between those who 'tax and spend' to those who 'borrow and spend' while both grow government.
To get to the Presidential election, any candidate must now navigate the rigged system that has grown up since the early 20th century made to exclude third parties. That means either starting to build a third party within the next 1.5-2 years or having a candidate who can co-opt one of the parties by presenting a compelling message and then staging a coup inside one of the existing parties. To some extent the government-centric Obama campaign did just that in the Democratic party, which now no longer stands up for 'the little guy' but for vested interest in Big Labor with a radicalist agenda for nationalizing large parts of the private sector, as was done by parties in Europe in the 1930's. There is no equivalent of that in the Republican party as it is living with the legacy of Progressive ideals of Teddy Roosevelt and pro-government presence Hamiltonians. Together that noxious set of views has slowly isolated the Republican party from everyday America, just as pro-Big Labor and its backing has done to the Democratic party.
For a different platform and agenda to appear that is compelling to voters takes not just a compelling candidate. Richard Nixon and George W. Bush had little in the way of charisma, but lots in political savvy to get them through to victory. Ronald Reagan cashed in on both charisma and message... and never delivered on the latter. Republicans never learned that it was that latter that made Reagan compelling as a candidate and decided that 'star quality' became necessary to sell ideals... thus without such a star the ideals went out the door and the party reverted back to its previous stance of 'managing growth' of government.
Thus the positivist points are clear:
- Present a compelling agenda that is neither government expansive nor about managing government growth, but about changing the direction of government to smaller via removing substantial parts of it that will become insolvent very, very soon.
- Demonstrate adhering to this by being a stout supporter of the message either as a governor or in Congress and pressing hard against the tide of Big Governmentism.
- Appeal to the non-voting population with this message by actively seeking out those who haven't voted and coalescing their reasoning into a compelling agenda that seeks to remove power from government and put it back in the hands of everyday Americans.
- Establish a 'ground game' early to undermine your opponents. Wherever they go, they should already find you there with your system in-place and working hard to keep a message going and to clearly state it and defend it.
- Establish an on-line 'air game' to supplement the ground game, so as to organize the ground game better and establish it in more places. Put out a broader set of reasoning online in text, imagery and video format, and seek support not just of the immediate campaign, but one to continue that good work win or lose.
- Do NOT let personal attacks on yourself or your family go by: call those doing so out and to say that to your face and those of your family members, live on television. It is amazing how few will find the courage to do that... and that will nip any of the personal attacks quickly in the bud. Do NOT let those fester or pass-by. If someone wants to say something nasty about you, invite them to do so without intermediaries, without supporters, and with the presence of cameras. And if the attack is vitriolic enough, vile enough, seeing a smarmy attacker getting punched out is preferable to doing NOTHING to defend yourself and your family. This does not mean knee-jerk response, but just pulling in those with the widest viewership/readership to do so. Any that will not do so at your expense will be seen as a coward and their message collapse. The concept of running a civil campaign and not tolerating incivility so that the issues of the NATION can be addressed are paramount - to stop the incivility it must be countered.
- Money isn't everything. Having people show up to vote IS everything. Money is a means to an end, not an end to itself, and requires a good ground game and disdaining a corrupt air game and skirting the FEC. Challenge your opponent to be just as open with financial records as you are, and then be damned transparent down to the smallest donor. If you can't do that, then don't complain about the corruption in any other campaign.
Do as you say you will do.
Say what you mean.
Mean what you do.
That is Honor.
Run an honorable campaign to restore the meaning of representative government by making it more representative and attacking the corrupt system as it stands.
That is a killer full-time campaign as those seeking more power are the majority of both parties... and yet they are now far less than 50% of America.
Sunshine kills corruption, thus the answer to a wavering, corrupt democracy is MORE voting and MORE representation.
I don't expect a candidate from either party to be able to do that.
They are weak tea, these days.
It is time to brew up stronger.