So…since the recent flurry of attention over my lament at the completely unfunny Republican Clown Car of Darkness, celebration of Team Obama’s aikido mastery, identification of the Romney campaign’s death spiral, and frank character assessment of the
presumed Republican nominee, folks have noticed that I have an opinion or two on matters political.
Yep, it’s a fact.
Honestly, yes, they do, just like that. Then they want more pretzels.
So here, let me refill that tankard for you, and journey with me into the terrifying landscape of Mark’s Political Mind for Eight Strategies for Kicking Republican Butt in 2012.
Let me say at the outset that some of this is pretty obvious stuff, and we’re already seeing it. The Obama campaign team has proven itself the smartest strategic campaign outfit I’ve seen in my lifetime, and if one of my thoughts below isn’t happening in the actual campaign, it’s probably because they know something I don’t and saw a reason it’s not worth doing.
I should also note that I’m not really addressing targeted demographic strategies here, but rather those targeted at that tiny group of independents and swing voters who are going to decide the election. The Obama campaign will and must, of course, also pursue target strategies to secure and mobilize constituencies the GOP has in essence abandoned: active GOTV for minorities to overcome Republican voting obstruction; Spanish-language outreach; a hard press for women’s votes.
So…here, with no further ado, are Mark’s Eight Footprints as Applied to Republican Butt:
- Highlight Obama’s record. This one is self-evident, but I mention it because Romney’s early strategy was to make the election a referendum on Obama. That clearly didn’t work. Most of the people in the country still—correctly—blame George W. Bush for the condition of the economy. Trot out the heartwarming testimonials of the auto workers whose jobs were saved, the parents of ill children now covered by Obamacare (which is now polling in the black), and seniors who benefited by closing the donut hole. Allude—without being too crass about it—to the death of Osama bin Laden. And be sure to point out that all he has accomplished has been with the flat opposition of Republicans.
- Keep working the trust and likeability wedge. The Obama campaign has succeeded in framing Romney as secretive and untrustworthy, and Romney’s own campaign ineptitude has established him as the most disliked Presidential nominee ever. Keep pushing on the tax question, and use what you find in the Gawker dump to continue questioning Romney’s credibility. Add to that the cascade of flip-flops: use jump-cut ads showing Mitt Romney taking every policy position under the sun. The key points here are uncertainty and dislike: Romney is a cold and selfish man who doesn’t stand for anything, running on a radical vision of how America should be transformed, the only certain beneficiaries of which are people like himself. That is too scary of a bet for most voters.
- Keep after Romney’s history at Bain Capital like a terrier in a rat hole. The factory closings, offshore tax shelters to avoid paying income tax, and vampire capitalism are all negatives except to voters Obama is never going to carry anyway. Make sure voters keep seeing the human faces of what happens when the Suits go wild. (Hey! Some third party person should do a Suits Gone Wild YouTube ad!)
- Hammer on Romney’s job creation record in Massachusetts. By the time he was done, MA was ranked 47th in job growth. Hiring this guy to fix your unemployment situation is like hiring a gas station attendant to do brain surgery. We already know whether he has the chops to create jobs: he doesn’t. Make sure voters know it, too.
- Get Romney mad. Romney is a gaffe machine anyway, but he is at his worst when his entitlement and ego come to the fore. He is a man accustomed to getting what he wants, and he completely believes that he can buy the Presidency just as he has bought everything else in his life. As that goal moves out of reach, he will become more and more brittle, reactive, imperious and angry. He will say things he will regret. This strategy is particularly important during the debates: Romney can’t do anything to get a rise out of Long-Fuse Barack unless the President makes a deliberate decision to show a little heat. But the reverse is definitely not true.
- Characterize Romney as hopelessly out of touch. Contrast Cayman Islands tax shelters and $77,000 “business” deductions for dancing horses with the struggles of ordinary Americans. Be careful to avoid “attacking success”, but make the point that a guy whose solution to high college costs is to tell people to “borrow $20,000 from their parents” is simply clueless about the challenges facing the average American.
- Highlight the scary nature of the Ryan budget, and use the “R-word”: Radical. Most Americans don’t know much about Ryan yet, and there is an opportunity to define him for swing voters. The Ryan budget is radical in every sense, and Congressional Republicans have all signed on in lockstep support, so this is a golden opportunity for downballot coattails. There are many components of Ryan’s budget to be scared of: demolition of Medicare for seniors, the likely ending of the tax deduction for mortgage interest in order to deliver yet another tax cut for the rich, the ending of the popular provisions in Obamacare like the ending of exclusion for pre-existing conditions. That is a lot of ammunition, some of it state-specific: Romney’s hostility to wind energy in Iowa, for example, and of course, Medicare in Florida. Make them wear all of it.
- Call out the cowardice of Republican “can’t-do” policies, and contrast with the American tradition of courage.
On this last point, I think there is an opportunity to galvanize the Democratic base and show how genuinely shabby the Republican agenda really is. An effective way of characterizing Republican hostility to programs that benefit ordinary Americans and prepare us for the future is that they’re just a bunch of surrender monkeys. If it were me, my stump speech would end something like this:
“I know it’s tough to say, but when I listen to Republicans these days, they sound like they’ve given up on a better future. There is opportunity right in front of us, but they don’t want us to take it. We’re still better positioned than any nation on Earth to be the leaders and innovators on clean energy, addressing climate change, and building the economy of the 21st century. We can return to good jobs, a healthy middle class and greater national security if we choose that path. But Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan seem to believe that all America is capable of doing any more is to give rich people more money and hope it works out for the best…even though we know from 30 years’ experience that it won’t.
“They’re the ‘Can’t-Do’ ticket. They think we can’t provide Medicare for our seniors or cutting-edge educational opportunities for our young people any more. They think we can’t build the infrastructure we need to be competitive in the global marketplace. They think we can’t become independent from foreign oil. The only thing they believe we can do any longer is to cut taxes for people like themselves, while the rest of Americans’ lives get harder.
“I look at Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan and Congressional Republicans, and it honestly looks as though they have thrown in the towel. They don’t seem to have any confidence that America can succeed, and they don’t have any new ideas. They want to fold the tent on our elderly and our young people and our country’s economic future. Their idea is kind of like what Mr. Romney did at Bain Capital: they see the federal government as something they can strip of resources for their own benefit, instead of applying those resources so we can all be successful together in the future. Their vision is of a future America where unless you’re rich, you’re an illness or a paycheck away from desperation.
“Don’t we have any better choices than just to surrender to a downhill slide? Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan don’t seem to think so.
“Well, I think we do. Joe Biden thinks we do. And [local-district Democratic Congressional candidate _____] thinks so, too. We haven’t given up. We know that this country has risen to challenges before, and it can this time, too.
“We are citizens of the United States of America. We went to the Moon. We invented the airplane, recorded sound, jazz, rock and roll and the computer chip. We cured polio, decoded the genome and created the Internet. We inspired the world with a revolution based in principles of liberty and tolerance, and we have led the world in breaking down barriers of prejudice and fear.
“We are not so short-sighted as to embrace Mitt Romney’s vision of America’s future, where the comfortable avoid the taxes the hard-working must pay. We are not so timid as to shrink from the demands the coming world makes of us. We are not so small as to avoid the responsibilities our future generations place before us.
“Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan and the Republicans in Congress want us to give up on trying to solve the problems their party created, and instead just to double down on failed policies that happen to make them money. They want us to keep repeating their mistakes, because it works great for rich people like themselves and their donors.
But I–and Joe Biden, and [local-district Democratic Congressional candidate _____] have a message for Mr. Romney, Mr. Ryan and Republicans in Congress: America DOESN’T QUIT. If all you can come up with is giving up and grabbing what you can out of the mess you made of our economy, get out of the way, because the American people have never surrendered, and we’re not going to start now.
“Thank you, god bless you, and god bless the United States of America.”*
I’m Mark Green, and I approve this message.
*Final line necessary because it’s traditional. Does not indicate credulity on my part.
At publication, the Dragon was LOADED FOR BEAR