GOP Must Re-Learn Campaign Techniques

Republican insiders don’t actually know how to run successful political campaigns.  But conservatives don’t know how to run campaigns effectively, either.   The two sides need to stop accusing each other, and start (re)learning how to win elections.

As a result, Republican elites want to tell us which candidates are “electable.”  But they have no idea.  They don’t know.   A greater proportion of establishment-backed candidates lose contested general elections than do conservatives, particularly if you subtract the factor of insiders sabotaging conservatives.  Elites cannot make valid predictions because they have forgotten how political campaigns actually work.

One cause is that decades ago the GOP abandoned proven campaign techniques for the more ‘modern’ concept of an ‘air war,’ in which money buys TV ads.  The ridiculous idea that you can win an election without leaving your desk was born.  Consultants who make money from commissions on advertising buys convinced gullible Republican insiders that tons of money could win without doing any hard work.  The experiment was a catastrophe.  The GOP’s infrastructure in the grassroots fell into disrepair.  The Party forgot how to run real campaigns. 

Now even Ann Coulter has gone full RINO, blinded by the desperation of wanting to win elections without knowing how or why.  She wants Mitt Romney to run again for President in 2016.  Ann Coulter commanded conservatives -- thou shalt not run any challenger against any incumbent Republican.   Coulter channeled Karl Rove on The Sean Hannity Show on Fox News on February 19, 2014.

Ann Coulter smeared tea party organizations as fraudulent.  She condemned “anyone who claims to be going after establishment Republicans….” as a con-artist.  Coulter joins the lynch mob trashing Joe Miller (who has stellar credentials), Sharron Angle, Christine O’Donnell, etc.

Yet Ann’s beloved Mitt Romney got only 40% of the vote in Delaware for President in 2012.  Christine O’Donnell took exactly the same 40% of the vote in Delaware for U.S. Senate in 2010.  So, Ann wants “40% Mitt” to be the great hope of Republicans in 2016 for President.  But Ann blames “40% Christine” for all the ills of the world.  Have we mis-diagnosed the situation, when both candidates each got precisely the same 40% in Delaware?

A GOP civil war is being fueled by both sides blaming the other for losing.  The goal is to win, yet like ancient superstitions, each side condemns the other for angering the gods through violating obscure and dubious taboos.  But the offenses that set each side to shrieking have little to do with winning elections.  What seems most important to those hurling accusations is really not that important at all.  The finger-pointing involves the sacred cows of both sides that do not actually contribute to success.

People will elect a candidate who stands for something they care about.  But even a strong conservative candidate can lose if voters don’t actually get to hear their message.  A candidate can fail if he or she doesn’t know how to combat the inevitable lies and smears by Democrats.  Conservatives still harbor the quaint belief that making the best case will get votes.  Democrats aggressively pursue a strategy that the most skillful liar will win the election.

I helped a tea party candidate for Congress in Ohio.  He won over every crowd he spoke to.  But he lost the primary because there were far more voters who never had the chance to hear him speak.  The establishment swamped the district with the RINO message by radio and mailed post cards.  The tea party candidate won the votes of those who heard him.  He lost the votes of those who only heard the message of the well-funded RINO.  There were too many voters to talk to them all without the financial resources arranged by the establishment.  We have things to learn on the conservative side.

On the establishment side, it is self-evident that we should not run any more tea party candidates because Christine O’Donnell lost by 16.6% in 2010.   Yet Delaware’s 2012 nominee lost by 37.4%, taking only 29%.  A successful businessman with no baggage and no controversy, Delaware’s 2012 nominee should have been Ann’s kind of candidate.  Christine actually lost by the third smallest margin since 1990.  (See Footnote.)

Republican strategists like Karl Rove wanted the 2010 and 2012 elections to be referenda on President Obama.  In Delaware, Barack Obama enjoyed a 57% approval rating in 2010.  So the Democrat won U.S. Senate by 57%.  GOP strategists achieved the ‘referendum’ they wanted.   Republican elites don’t remotely understand what happened or what to do next time.

Conservatives have to win the Republican “civil war” explains Richard Viguerie, conservative godfather.   Viguerie explains that until conservatives take over the Republican Party, the United States of American cannot be saved. The Republican establishment is completely dedicated to winning for its side and destroying conservatives, preserving the Republican Party is a reliable Big Government partner for the Democrats. 

Yet all Republicans need to stop the Animal House food fight, go back to school, and study and learn how to run effective political campaigns.  Like a bad salesman who keeps dropping the price because he does not have the skill to sell the product with all its benefits and true value, GOP elites want to water down the Republican agenda because they do not know how to win.  Conservatives realize that issues matter, in bold colors not pale pastels, but fail in many techniques and tactics needed for reaching voters with their message.  Our bold message does not help us when we drop the ball in other areas.

FOOTNOTE:  The point is that Republicans are focused on the wrong things.  However, if readers cannot move past whether Mike Castle would have won, consider:

First, Democrat voter registration increased by 31% since 2002 in Delaware, while Republican registration increased by only 4.74%.  Democrats added a staggering 11% from 2008 to 2010 while Republican registration was nearly flat.  So this is not your father’s Delaware.  Older elections cannot tell us Castle’s chances in 2010, because Delaware has changed radically.

Second, Castle won in the past against only token opponents.  Karen-Hartley Nagle spent $27,787 in 2008 against $1,808,080 for Castle.  Yet Castle got only 61% against nobody.  Dennis Spivack spent $386,892 in 2006 compared with $1,112,719 for Castle.  Democrat Paul Donnelly raised and spent $4,429 in 2004 compared with $902,711 for Castle.  Michael Miller spent $13,202 in 2002 compared with Castle’s $760,166 and $48,986 in 2000 compared with Castle’s $588,911.

So we cannot predict that Mike Castle would have won a genuine fight to yank Joe Biden’s U.S. Senate seat away from the Democrats.  Everyone knew that Republicans blocking Obama’s agenda was at stake.   The U.S. Senate race would never have been easy for anyone.

Third, when O’Donnell’s team went to the various headquarters after the primary on September 15, they discovered that nothing had been done by the Delaware Republican Party.  Had Castle been nominated, he could not have won because the DEGOP was totally unprepared for either nominee, with only 6 weeks from the primary to the general election.  Castle ran a terrible campaign in the primary and the Party was not ready.

FOOTNOTE 2:  In 1990, the Republican M. Jane Brady lost by 26.1% to Joe Biden for U.S. Senate, losing 36.2% to 62.3%.  The last Republican to win US Senate in Delaware was William Roth in 1994 against Charles Oberly.  Roth got 55.8% against Oberly’s 42.5%.   In 1996, Republican Raymond Clatworthy lost by 21.9% to Biden, with 38.1% against Biden’s 60%.  In 2000, Republican William Roth lost by nearly 12% to Tom Carper   In 2002, Clatworthy lost by 17.4% against Biden.  In 2006, Republican Jan Ting lost by 41.5% against Tom Carper.  In 2008, Christine O'Donnell lost by 29.4% against Biden.  In 2010, Christine O'Donnell lost by 16.6% against Chris Coons.  In 2012, Republican Kevin Wade lost by 37.4% to Tom Carper.