Karl Rove has a new scam plan to vaccum money from gullible donors who don’t know that he is out of touch save the Republican party. Rove’s super-PAC is supposedly going to help “electable” Republicans against unelectable Tea Party insurgents. Who knew that the problem was that establishment candidates were being outspent? Even counting the outside group money, Richard Lugar still outspent Richard Mourdock by a couple of million dollars. Lugar ended losing the race by about twenty points. Some Karl Rove ads were not going to change the outcome. Mike Castle outspent the absurd carny Christine O’Donnell by about two-to-one even when you count the spending by pro-O’Donnell conservative outside groups, and she still managed to win despite her history of personal and financial problems. The “establishment” candidates aren’t losing because of a lack of money, and giving Karl Rove more bucks won’t lead to better Republican Senate candidacies anymore than the $300 million that Rove raised and spent in 2012 helped Republicans win the presidency and pick up Senate seats. So here is some free advice for “establishment” Republican Senate candidates:

1. Treat your party’s conservative base as an ally rather than an obstacle or an election year nuisance. Scott Brown is on the left edge of the Republican party, yet Massachusetts conservatives backed him enthusiastically. That is because he focused his campaign on where he and conservatives had common ground. He was against Obamacare and they were against Obamacare. He was against civilian trials for terrorists and they were against civilian trials for terrorists. He was for lower taxes and they were for lower taxes. Conservative Republican differed from Brown on this or that issue, but it was clear that, in many ways, a vote for Brown really was a vote for their own principles.

2. Explain. If you think that your “insurgent” opponent has a history of saying stupid things, explain why those comments are stupid, but do so in a way that doesn’t insult your audience. You want to explain why your opponents positions are bad for your voters, but you don’t want to come across like you think the voters are idiots for even considering your opponent. Don’t act like explaining why you are right is beneath you. If you think your opponent’s Medicare plan is bad, explain how it will hurt the parents of the very people who will be voting in the primary. You might think the primary voters are too irrational and ideological for these explanations to work, but that is your mistake. Mitt Romney marginalized Rick Perry among Republican primary voters partly by getting to Perry’s left on Social Security. Most Republican primary voters don’t want to vote for someone who might be an unelectable extremist. But if their only choices are someone who treats them like pests, and someone who treats them with respect but is called an unelectable extremist by liberal-leaning media, Republican primary voters will go with the candidate who treats them with respect.

3. Start right away. Candidates build relationships with voters over months. If you wait until a week before the election and find that your opponent has the “momentum”, then it is probably too late. That momentum represents hundreds of thousands of contacts over many months. Impressions have hardened. Those impressions could change again, but it will take time and you don’t have enough of it. Treat your opponent and your voters with respect. Explain what is wrong with your opponent early on. Win the argument right away. And if you can’t win the argument right away, maybe you don’t deserve to win at all.

And now some advice for Republican donor:

1. Stop giving money to super-PACs who will spend the money on thirty second ads designed to win elections in 1988. All you are doing is making old school Republican consultants even more rich without their even having to think through the specific problems of our time.

2. Spend money explaining how particular conservative policies would save young people money on health care premiums while maintaining their health care security.

3. Spend money on ads that demonstrate the visible humanity of the late-term fetus and explain the abortion extremism of the national Democratic party.

4. Spend money on ads that explain conservative policies that will increase the take home pay of parents.

5. Run experiments and conduct in-depth interviews on how to better reach younger and nonwhite voters in ways other than the traditional thirty second network television ad.

Spending money on particular candidates in election years isn’t the best way to help the center-right. The Republicans will raise enough money to get their message out. The problem is they don’t have a message and they don’t have a map for getting that message out to much of the country. Conservative donors can familiarize the public with a positive conservative agenda and create set of techniques for conservative candidates to communicate with constituencies that never hear a conservative message today. Doing those two things would be far more valuable than helping some consultant pick primary candidates.

Articles by Pete Spiliakos

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