Memorandum to the GOP: When running an election campaign it is often valuable to select a nominee who represents the rank and file of the Party. This is how other Parties do it. Perhaps you might get on board.
Well let’s start with who not to select.
There was George H.W. Bush, who, while a nice, honorable public servant, won primarily because of the record Reagan established. He lost because the rest of us thought that when he mouthed the words “Read my lips, go to Texas,” he meant “Read my lips, no new taxes.”
There was Bob Dole, a very honorable man too, but not exactly full of policies ideas. Or convictions. He’s the guy who thrilled us with the ringing cry: “I’ve never read the Republican platform.”
Then there was the other George Bush, W.
He also is a nice man; a man full of character, but he led the largest expansion of government power since Jimmy Carter and took us into a war that he stubbornly refused to win until he was all out of options. And while there remain good reasons to fight in Iraq, he also refused to tell the rest of the Party what they were. .
W squeaked out the election in 2000, with a Supreme Court ruling necessary to finally seal the deal. Then in 2004, he fought tooth and nail in a close election contest that in some respects the Party still pays for.
That brings us to McCain, who was decidedly not a nice guy. He was really grumpy. He was grumpy to everyone except his opponent. He was very grumpy to his VP choice, Sarah Palin. And did I tell you that he was really nice to his opponent? Because he was. Maybe that’s because many of his policy ideas fit better in the Democrat Party, than they did in the GOP.
Of course he went down to Barack Obama in 2008.
Which bring us to the next “next-guy-in-line,” Mitt Romney.
Mitt too represented the far left of the GOP. But at least he returned us to the tradition of making sure our guy was considered a “nice” guy.
In any election campaign, if you want to avoid it becoming just a popularity contest based simply on personality- note to Mitt, you wanted to avoid that- it’s very important to bring some real policy contrast to your campaign. For every Obama policy that was an equal or worse Romney policy. The animatronics that make up the Mitt Romney mechanism are good, but they aren’t gonna win too many popularity contests or act as a substitute for real conservative ideals.
Change needs to start happening at the state and local level where top-down party central committees have refused to create coalitions at the grass roots level.
Hence, in the ground game too the GOP is kind of old fashioned, missing critical components that allow the Party to drive the must win contests, like Allen West’s.
It’s great to the ride wave years, but you have to be able to win the close elections. The Democrats aren’t beating Republicans by virtue of ideology so much as mechanics and logistics.
There is a trend at the grassroots level with get-out-the-vote that demonstrates the Democrats’ ability to precisely micro target an additional 4-to-6 percent of the vote, some of which escapes the polling until late in the race.
Simply put, the models that the GOP relies upon, including those relied upon by myself, have failed to adequately account for this. Again, it makes no difference in a wave election, but we pay dearly for it in close contests.
The grassroots on the other side has spent ten years in community organizing, going door-to-door, creating coalitions of issues-driven, ideologically-funded third party groups that can do a lot of heavily lifting for GOTV. The GOP on the other hand has eschewed groups like the tea parties, seeing the grass roots as a hindrance to our chances at being the cool kids at school.
You saw it the results on Tuesday.
The progressive activists worked for it, while GOP worked their top-down magic and expected to ride the wave.
The results in too many cases have been disappointing.
As my friend Greg Graves once explained to me “You gotta win the ones you are supposed to win, and you have to pick off a few you weren’t supposed to.”
The GOP, as usual, picked off the one we were supposed to win.