I have a message to the DNC and liberal SuperPACS like Priorities USA. This is part-prediction, part-business strategy. And though I recommend a wait-and-see approach to this idea, I think it’s something they should be paying attention to now:
Come late September, the Democrats should consider shifting the bulk of their media expenditures from the presidential election to the congressional elections.
Because Mitt Romney is running out of time to win, and he has played almost all of his cards.
It’s a long election season. And things could change. But I’m approaching this from a purely strategic perspective, and it looks really ugly for Mitt Romney right now.
Let me explain: I know a lot of people see the polls and think that the election is neck-and-neck.
It’s not. It’s neck-and-neck nationally, but that is not how we elect presidents. We elect them via the Electoral College, and on a state-by-state basis in a math problem where the answer is 270.
It's simply becoming a matter of execution.
Strategically speaking, it’s just hard to knock off an incumbent. You need to present something special to voters so they come out to vote for you, and Romney’s message/personality/strategic approach to this election is pretty solidly under the umbrella of “I’m not Obama.”
He can’t run on his signature achievement as governor, because it is the model for the signature achievement of his rival. Running on his time at Bain Capital is proving to be a bad move. He has no legitimate foreign policy experience. Every time he opens his mouth (re: his taxes, flip-flopping, "firing people", "corporations are people"), he seems to dig a hole he has to explain his way out of in the debates later. And he isn’t exactly firing people up with his personality and ability to connect with voters (sometimes, even his own party's).
Picking Paul Ryan as his VP will fire up the Libertarian/Tea Party arm of his party; but that’s not really a viable strategy for winning, if you ask me. Those people were already fired up, because many of them have illogically convinced themselves that Obama is a Communist Anti-Christ whose father was Keyser Soze, and were probably going to vote for Romney anyway.
As more level-headed, objective Independents, Moderates, and Undecideds begin to look at Ryan, they'll see something different. They’ll see his radical plan to end Medicare (as we know it) in favor of a more privatized exchange system. That actually distances the GOP ticket from a core voting block, allowing Obama to close the gap with seniors.
Undecideds will see his plan to slash spending on other entitlements for food stamps, Pell Grants and Medicaid, and they’ll bristle.
They’ll see that Ryan, like Romney, wants to extend tax cuts for the rich (and Romney’s plan has been examined by an independent organization and shown to potentially raise taxes on the middle class). Those are things that are not polling in their favor.
Finally, someone is going to make a talking point out of Paul Ryan’s voting record; and people will find out he’s equally as conservative as Michele Bachmann, and the most partisan member of Congress to be a Vice Presidential pick since 1900—liberal or conservative.
And, strategically speaking, that’s not how you get moderates to vote for you when you have a lot of ground to make up on an incumbent.
I know that some Republicans think these are good ideas. But they are going to have to accept that this is an unpopular perspective across the country, especially with groups who (understand and) benefit from those programs. And those people vote. And people who actually sympathize with those people, loathsome as Republicans may find that, still vote. The Tea Party ideals are just not popular.
The number of votes gained by placating the Tea Party faction is not larger than the numbers lost in terms of disaffected GOPers and Independents combined. And it's certainly not big enough to surge ahead to win.
So here’s where my advice comes in to the DNC and the SuperPACs: Let this play out naturally. You don’t need to spend much money on attack ads-- by that point, all the relevant messages will be out through the conventions, the media and the debates.
The Republicans are proud of their unpopular messages, and they are going to outspend you anyway. Just remind Obama voters in your key demographics to come out and vote (and bring their appropriate ID, if necessary) November 6th. You’ve got an incumbent President, and an opponent with the huge task of distinguishing himself while uniting a fractious party. Let the opponent wage the uphill battle.
Instead, use that money wisely and spend it educating voters and winning elections at the state level. If Obama gets re-elected, and has a GOP-led House and Senate, we’re a lame-duck country for at least two more years. You have to defend 23 seats in the Senate, and pick up 25 in the House. In order to do that, you need a massive repudiation of Republican policy, and that is a huge financial undertaking. You can spread your message and ideology out through these state campaigns, rather than using dollars on something that will probably go in your favor naturally. If people come out to the polls because they're fired up about Sherrod Brown defeating Josh Mandel, they will naturally vote for the President anyway.
In short, paint the entire GOP ideology as radical, not just Mitt Romney. Romney will dig his own hole. Your plan needs to be bigger than just winning the White House.
And if you’re going to even pretend to be liberal, you must be forward-thinking enough to see that.
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