Campaign Memorandum I: Some Initial Strategic and Tactical Considerations
posted at 3:53 pm on May 20, 2012 by Mike Rathbone
The following is unsolicited campaign advice from me to the Romney campaign. It will also share with you my thought processes with the rest of Hot Air’s readership. This is based off of a similar document created by Roger Wirthlin to Ronald Reagan’s campaign back in 1980. Feel free to comment and add your insights. They are most definitely appreciated.
To date, Mitt Romney won 33 primaries and caucuses. With all of the other candidates dropped out or not actively campaigning, he is the presumptive Republican nominee. The purpose of this post is to stimulate thought and discussion among senior staff and the Governor that will evolve into a detailed campaign plan built on the (agreed upon) goals, objectives, and strategies.
Several lessons emerged that from the primary politicking can be most helpful in developing an effective strategy for the general election campaign. These are:
- The primary electorate was volatile in its support for various candidates, a virtually unprecedented number of candidates managed to have or share the lead in the national primary polls. Governor Romney’s steady support was enough to ensure his victories in most of the contested states, but this also indicates a weakness in connecting with certain elements of the party. There will be a natural coming together of the base once the primary is concluded, but the Governor’s victory has left elements of the base hurting, and efforts should be undertaken to soothe any lasting injuries caused by the primary.
- The primaries have also illustrated the Governor’s strengths and weaknesses with various demographic groups. Areas of weakness in regards to evangelical protestants and younger voters. Areas of strength in regards to Catholics and older voters.
- The primary has taken a toll on Governor Romney’s favorables. This is partially due to the negative tone of many of the Governor’s primary ads and also due to resentment from the supporters of other candidates in the primary. The latter problem can be addressed through the passage of time, the shifting of focus to the general election, and by outreach to disaffected conservatives. The Vice-Presidential pick can have an impact in this area as well, but that is for a different memo. The former can be addressed through a re-introduction of the Governor to various persuadable groups and low-information voters. Mrs. Romney has played a valuable role in helping to increase the Governor’s likeability and her presence is a decided plus.
This fourth point flows directly into what is needed for the following months of May, June, July, and August. This will be discussed below.
The Major Thrust of the Campaign
When an incumbent president seeks a second term, then the election generally becomes a referendum on the successes and failures of his administration. President Obama can be defeated if this proves, as it has in the past, to be the major thrust and focus of the 2012 campaign.
Hence, Barack Obama’s leadership (or his lack thereof), his incompetence, and his failures must be major targets of the campaign. Barack Obama’s weakness in West Virginia and apparent weakness in Arkansas revealed the political potency of making the Obama administration and leadership the issue (The opposing primary candidates didn’t even have to make the message, the voters knew all about the President, they just didn’t want to vote for him).
The Romney campaign can set the stage for a similar campaign by purchasing a half-hour of prime-time television in late June or Mid-July (not on the Fourth-I personally suggest Monday July 16th, it’s after the Obamacare ruling, the June unemployment report, and before the Summer Olympics begin) to launch the general theme of quality of leadership–showing where Obama has taken us since 2008 and what the promise of America might be for 2013 and beyond should Mitt Romney be elected. But this tactic mist be supported by the electorate viewing the Governor as a favorable and credible alternative to Barack Obama.
Specifically, the campaign must position the Governor, in these early stages, so that he is viewed as capable in foreign affairs, more competent in the economic area, compassionate (not capital C Compassionate Conservative, just that he’s no Gordon Gekko) on the domestic issues and not the conservative zealot that his opponents and the media (one and the same) will try to paint him to be.
To accomplish these objectives early in the campaign, it is essential that the campaign start developing new material on four issues:
- the general issue of leadership (President Obama has punted on issues like the deficit, specifically in regards to entitlements, and areas of foreign policy like Libya and Iran)
- the values and aspirations issue (basically Governor Romney’s take on the American Dream)
- the economy (jobs and the deficit)
- a firm, but restrained foreign policy position
Once that image has been solidly established then the campaign can confront, expose, and decry the major failures of the Obama administration in the closing months of the campaign.
Care must be exercised so that the Governor’s (and his surrogates) criticism of Obama does not come off as too shrill or too personal. The campaign CAN hammer the President too hard, which will spawn backlash. The most effective avenue for criticizing the president, will be to use his own lofty rhetoric and promises against him. Play to people’s disappointment and unease with the status quo. The tone should be that of disappointment not anger. The President’s record has provided and will continue to provide the campaign with many targets.
The Political-Institutional Power Base
It is absolutely critical, in the light of the stresses and strains that the primaries have generated and the fact that conservative Tea-Party members still hold influence within the Party, that the campaign immediately begin to reach out, secure, and extend Governor Romney’s support among the following key elements within the Party:
- Republican National Committee
- Other 2012 presidential contenders
- Sarah Palin
- Incumbent Senatorial, Congressional, and Gubernatorial Republican
Republican National Committee
The following objectives need to be met in regards to interactions the Republican National Committee
- Identify early the nature and scope of any stresses or strains between the established party organization and the Romney loyalists and resolve these as quickly and amicably as possible.
- Insure that the new Republican National Committeemen and women and state chairmen are Romney supporters. It is critical that while we maintain a strong sense of party unity, on the one hand, that the campaign does not, on the other hand, lose this critical power base regardless of the nature, course or outcome of the presidential election.
- Provide effective coordination with the House and Senate caucuses so that their messages and positions do not conflict with the campaign’s in a serious way.
- Identify early the resources that the campaign will need to have from the Republican National Committee to run an effective fall campaign. Furthermore, it is essential that the campaign directly exercises power and control over those particular resources.
Other 2012 Presidential Contenders
If it has not already been done, it important to secure the verbal support of all of the candidates who initially sought the Republican presidential nomination.
It is essential that the campaign not only use their endorsements adroitly with the media, but also take full advantage of their “support” in raising money and bolstering the campaign organization with key men and women from their campaigns who have proved to be effective. It is important to tie them closely and meaningfully to the campaign. All of these men and women can serve as excellent surrogates through the summer and into the fall.
Even though I doubt that Ron Paul will bolt the Party and run as an Independent, the campaign should avoid, and in particular Mitt Romney must do everything within reason to cultivate a good relationship with Ron Paul and his supporters. It is clearly within the best interests of the campaign to preach party unity as strongly as ever. If Congressman Paul, for whatever reason, should decide to run an independent candidacy, the campaign will have lost nothing by making it as easy as possible for him to stay within the Republican ranks. If the campaign treats him benignly and he still decides to leave the party, then the onus of spoiler falls squarely on his shoulders (and his son Rand’s for that matter).
Of all Republicans, Sarah Palin potentially help or hurt the campaign more than any other (with the possible exception of President George W. Bush). She is still respected a great deal by the significant portions of the Party’s base. Handling the campaign’s relationship with her is a delicate situation. She must be treated respectfully, but also be kept at enough of a distance so that Governor Romney’s image and positions not be conflated with hers. Due to her effectiveness as a speaker and communicator, a speaking spot (Monday) at the Convention shouldn’t be summarily dismissed, but the campaign must be careful to avoid the mistakes of the 1992 Convention, where Pat Buchanan’s speech virtually overshadowed President Bush 41’s. I suggest using her, if practicable, in “friendly” venues, talk radio, Fox News, and the like.
Incumbent Senatorial, Congressional and Gubernatorial Republicans
Republican incumbets cab provide a most valuable base for the campaign. They can help the campaign develop good state camapign plans, provide political resources to enhance the success of the campaign in their states, and as spokespersons for the Governor’s political interest in the fall. The campaign needs the organizational mechanism to assure that it takes advantage early of these resources. I see them being especially valuable in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Virginia, and Iowa.
See Appendix A on a following post.