Since the end of the election I've watched people argue over what happened to the Republicans and Senator McCain. A lot of folks have jumped on the Republican don't get the internet mantra and I've always known that was never the answer. Some people think it was Governor Palin and once again I never believed that. I've always known we lost because of an extremely unpopular President, the economy blowing up on 9/15, and running into the great Obama money making machine. The blow up in the economy was a double whammy with President Bush's unpopularity which continues to haunt Republicans because of out of control spending, Government growth, and lack of fiscal discipline; all things that go against Reagan's strategies for winning elections.
I attended quite a few AAPC panels and not just the ones where my fellow Campaign Solutions friends were on. Two in particular were quite fascinating for me and both were recaps of the 2008 courtesy of Whit Ayers, Charlie Cook, and Ron Brownstein. From that panel I learned a lot of interesting points including (these are my notes and so the exact number below might be incorrect, but directionally...):
- Obama won 80% of the non-white vote and also won like 2/3 of the under 29 year old crowd; there will be 18 million more of them (Millennials) by 2012
- Obama also won white, college educated while the only group that Senator McCain won was non-college educated whites
- Aiming at the South has issues because of the Electoral College vote. The last non-narrow Republican win that included major Shore states was 1988.
- Since 1992, 14 Shore states representing 69% of 270 Electoral votes have consistently voted for a Democratic Presidential candidate (*exception is NH 2000). That's basically starting down 190 votes to ZERO putting the pressure on OH, FL, and VA (increasingly going blue) for the GOP to compete. This means narrow Republican Presidential victories (see 2000 and 2004) when we win if we continue on this strategy; this also only means continuing to focus on the Republican base.
shore states are WA, OR, CA, ME, NH*, VT, MA, CT, RI, NY, PA, NJ, MD, and DE
and they haven't voted for a Republican in 20 years. Let that sink in for
a second. In 20 years almost 70% of the electoral college hasn't gone to
a Republican and that points to a branding and messaging problem in
attracting voters in these states. Simply stated, these states include
big businesses like media, agencies, pharma, banking, financial services,
internet, ivy league colleges - well you get the idea: targets that the current
Republican message falls short. BTW - would it surprise you that these states are also where the MONEY comes from?
Prior to going off on my own and working with CDI, I spent 15 years in corporate America. I basically grew up at AT&T and then worked at Harrisdirect. At AT&T I worked with some of the largest agencies in the world while working on major product launches. At Harrisdirect, we were the company constantly rebranding as the name switched from DLJdirect to CSFBdirect, to Harrisdirect, and then finally E*Trade.
What does this all tell me? If a brand was EVER in need of a rebranding it would be the Republican Party and here's where I'd start if this was my product.
- I'd start with a hypothesis that Reagan's core messages of a strong economy, job growth, military strength, and smaller government are still valuable. Other issues while still important would be pushed to the background (see Obama note below).
- Focus groups and quantitative studies to firm up strategies and tactics. I'd run these on a monthly basis to watch changes.
- I'd look for candidates that can pull in Shore states. That probably means pushing issues that play in the South to the background. Basically, an Obama messaging strategy of being a liberal in disguise as a centrist. Behind the scenes work your agenda, but on the surface focus on core issues, #1 above.
- Engage youth and Latino markets because that's where the new voters are.
- Stop competing with President Obama on small issues and focus on jobs and economy (tea parties are a great start). 2010 is our key election which puts September 2010 as ground zero. Obama has offered up a lot of information and I'd track that job forecast and GDP forecast and hammer away. Eventually even with non-job creating expenditures and pork, the economy will turn around but everything I read says that real growth won't be until 2010.
- Think Twitter sound bites and explanations (I know this post is long). If you can't explain why Obama's military budget is wrong, don't give the liberal press and comedians their own sound bite of why Republicans say he cut the budget when the bottom line # went up 4% or so.
- Ronald Reagan is our brand essence and not a major message. It is time to stop putting President Reagan in TV ads, debates, and political talking points. It is time to stop looking for the next Ronald Reagan. Today's new voters don't care and the ones in between them and 40 year old voters like me, were not voting when Reagan was a political force (Governor to President). Continuing to mention him in messaging is like Major League Baseball talking about their heritage.
- Finally, the internet isn't just a fund raising ATM. It is a way to reach voters in the Shore states cheaply and effectively organize and communicate. Stop dropping direct mail.
It is time to rebrand and plan for 2010. It is time to win some Shore States. It is time that the Republican brand become competitive in these states because that's where the voters are.