Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Reviving Romney: Five things the Republican presidential campaign should do

The Republicans made a mistake using their convention for the primary purpose of trying to show that Mitt Romney is just like the rest of us. He's not. Get over it. They could have done the family thing and all that and showed how he's nice and caring. No problem. But everyone knows he's a rich guy. A smart rich guy, and a rich guy who knows how to get things done. There's no problem with that.

But convention organizers missed a huge opportunity to tell Americans what Romney and Ryan were going to do for the country. Or, better yet, to tell the country that they were going to tell them over the course of the ensuing weeks.

The eulogies are already being written about the campaign, but in reality it is far from over. Newer polls show Obama's convention bounce deteriorating and the race tightening in key states. But something is going to have to change with the campaign because there is just no coherent message coming out of it right now.

Here are five things Mitt Romney should do:

  1. "Location, location, location" is not just a sales slogan. In every town he stops in, Romney needs to go to the now desolate location of some business that has closed down sometime during Obama's tenure and give his campaign speech there.
  2. Simplify the message. Take Bill Kristol's advice: Begin every campaign speech with the statement: "This country is going bankrupt." Then follow it up with a positive message like: "We're going to bring America back" (Okay, it sounds cliched, but the high priced consultants should be able to jazz it up a little).
  3. Walk softly and let Paul Ryan carry a big stick. Use Paul Ryan like vice presidential candidates have always been used: as the attack dog. It wasn't inappropriate to criticize the current administration for its failings in foreign policy after the embassy killings, but it was not a good idea for Romney to do it. He should have stood up and acted presidential and expressed sorrow for the loss of lives on the day it happened while Paul Ryan was delivering the blows. Then, next day, Romney should have explained how he would have handled it, while Ryan continued to attack the administration. Do that for the rest of the week, then get back to the economic message.
  4. You can't ignore events. The Middle East is in crisis. Get used to it. He should announce that he is going to make a major foreign policy address next Monday (he should have done it this last Monday) and give the two things he is going to do to make America more respected around the world.
  5. Flesh out your main message. By the end of next week the protesters will get tired and need a breather. At the end of that week, announce that, starting the next week, you are going to announce three things you are going to do for the economy. Announce that you are going to announce it, and then announce one every Monday for three weeks. Have Ryan there to underscore the importance of the announcement.

Right now the media by and large is not covering the campaign; they're just lying in wait for gaffes. Part of the problem is that nothing is happening. There's nothing new. Just going around repeating what was said during the convention doesn't cut it. Romney needs to make something happen. The media only covers things when there is an event, and an event in which something new is going to be said or done. Doing this will give reporters something else to cover other than simply look for mistakes.

28 comments:

Thomas said...

And it's probably not a good idea to have the message that "people should want to pay taxes" while at the same time hiding your money in tax shelters in the Cayman Islands, and complaining that too few people pay income taxes while campaigning on lower taxes and proposing a plan that would actually reduce the number of people that pay income taxes further, lower taxes on the wealthy, and raise taxes on the middle class.

I think the problem is that he's (a) pretending to be radically libertarian when he is not (judging from his economic advisers and his past history) and he's (b) pandering to disparate constituencies, which produces a mixed message.

The unfortunate thing is that he was actually a decent enough governor in Massachusetts, and he would be a much better president than he is a campaigner--both in the sense that he's had to take patently foolish political positions to appease the tea party element and in the sense that his campaign appears to be in disarray.

Lee said...

Trying to explain politics to a Republican is like trying to explain physics to your dog. They look like they're listening. But they really don't get it.

> both in the sense that he's had to take patently foolish political positions to appease the tea party element

The Tea Party is known for two issues: getting the debt under control and adherence to the Constitution.

Which of those stands is patently foolish?

Thomas said...

That's sort of like saying Democrats are known for two issues: being opposed to the slaughter of civilians and the poor starving to death.

Anonymous said...

Gas prices. Gas prices. Gas prices.

Martin Cothran said...

Right. I should have included that. And food prices too. The things that will go up the fastest when inflation eventually comes as a result of the rise in the money supply.

Lee said...

Then by all means enlighten me, what's so patently foolish about the Tea Party's positions?

Meanwhile I found this patently absurd quote...

> "The fact that we are here today to debate raising America's debt limit is a sign of leadership failure. It is a sign that the US Government cannot pay its own bills. It is a sign that we now depend on ongoing financial assistance from foreign countries to finance our Government's reckless fiscal policies. Increasing America's debt weakens us domestically and internationally. Leadership means that, "the buck stops here.' Instead, Washington is shifting the burden of bad choices today onto the backs of our children and grandchildren. America has a debt problem and a failure of leadership. Americans deserve better."

~ Senator Barack H. Obama, March 2006

Lee said...

But as Glenn Reynolds likes to say, all statements by Barack Obama come with an expiration date.

Anonymous said...

Lee, beware, The One shall not be mocked, and his words shall not be held against him. I just wonder if he is now happy with high gas prices because enough time has gone by.

Lee said...

I'm not trying to mock Mr. Obama, but if you quote him, it's hard to avoid that appearance.

He did promise to increase gas prices, though. At least they have that going for them.

Thomas said...

I would say either his tax plan, which would lower taxes on the wealthy and raise them on the middle class, or in the debate when he said he wouldn't vote for a deficit reduction plan that would have ten dollars of cuts for every one of additional revenue. Any deficit hawk who would reject that deal is an imbecile.

Thomas said...

Oh, also his position that the 47% of Americans who do not pay income tax (of whom most are working class poor who pay payroll taxes or else elderly who no longer work) could be convinced "to take personal responsibility and care for their own lives."

I think it's absurd to say that the lower middle class, who pays on average a higher effective tax rate that Romney, cannot be convinced to take personal responsibility for their lives.

What's heartening is that the criticisms that have run in the National Review, WSJ, First Things, and other conservative outlets recognizes this to be absurd also.

Lee said...
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Lee said...

I was actually waiting for your explanation of what's absurd about the Tea Party's positions.

We know political candidates say absurd things. Why just the other day, Obama said he didn't know how big the deficit is.

I often hear liberals such as yourself complain about the opposition's imbecilic behavior, but in this case, Obama seems actually to be hoping we're imbeciles -- since I don't believe for a second that he is unaware of the size of the debt.

Thomas said...

I said that "he's had to take patently foolish political positions to appease the tea party element," not that the tea party itself takes foolish positions.

The tea party's motives are generally good: they don't want out of control spending or a government larger than it needs to be (just don't take their Medicare away!). The problem is that they generally do not understand economics, the tax structure, the way entitlement programs are currently set up and funded, who it is that receives government benefits, who or what has caused the deficit, who was responsible for the bailouts and how they were administered and so on. (In this respect, they are like pacifists: pacifists are well meaning and essentially correct in their moral convictions, but they are generally ignorant of what causes wars, what interests are at stake, and so on.)

It's one thing to talk in generalities about small government; it's another to come up with policies. What percentage of Tea Partiers do you think has ever read a CBO report?

Republicans need to return to their old aristocratic way of doing business. The tea party enthusiasm is nice, of course, but they aren't the people you go to if you want to know the difference between retrogressive and progressive tax effects, or anything else one needs to have an intelligent policy discussion.

If Romney is elected he will treat tea partiers like children: he will smile at their enthusiasm and entertain them for a while, then usher them outside so he can have an adult conversation with others in his office. I'll leave it to you to decide whether that is a good or bad thing.

KyCobb said...

Romney is a terrible politician. He struggled to put away an incredibly weak GOP field, and only won the nomination by having vastly more money to spend than his opponents. The man appears unable to relate to anyone other than his fellow plutocrats, and he has failed to give the electorate any reason to vote for him; he only appears to hope he can convince half the electorate to vote against the President. I expect his campaign to continue to flail away incoherently, staggering from one gaffe to another until its finally put out of its misery on election day.

Lee said...

> I said that "he's had to take patently foolish political positions to appease the tea party element," not that the tea party itself takes foolish positions.

Sorry. I just assumed that if someone must be appeased by taking patently foolish positions, it follows that he agrees with those patently foolish positions.

> they don't want out of control spending or a government larger than it needs to be (just don't take their Medicare away!).

Which is the problem from a free market/free society perspective, and the marketing opportunity for politicians on the other hand. Once you have folks relying on government, it takes away their desire to be free of government, and it makes the politicians important because now you're depending on them. It's a corrupting influence.

Even that's all well and good, arguably, if there's no bottom to the money well. But arithmetic always wins, eventually.

Personally, I would rather be without medical care in a solvent United States than to have medical care in a United States that can no longer pay its bills. Either way, the free medical care is going to run out before I get there, but at least we'll still have a country.

> The problem is that they generally do not understand economics

Come on, Thomas. The people who understand economics don't understand economics. Every increase in the unemployment rate over the three and a half years has been announced using the word "unexpectedly". The so-called "stimulus" was proposed based on their projections of unemployment, yet unemployment spiked significantly higher than their scenario for what would happen without the stimulus.

I think as a general rule the Tea Party's understanding of economics is not necessarily better or worse than anyone else's, they know instinctively what everyone knows, and that is our country will fall if we don't get the debt under control.

Neither party is serious about the debt because government spending is the key to political influence. Instead of spending an extra trillion for stimulus, the government could have simply declared 2009 an income tax-free year. My guess is that could not have done worse than what we had. But politically it would not have been acceptable because the politicians would have lost their jobs as money-faucets.

We have two liberal, spendaholic political parties in this country, but one of them is forced to pretend otherwise every two years because they are forced to get their votes from the folks who don't like liberal spendaholics.

The Tea Party is simply to try to hold the GOP accountable. If Republicans did as Republicans said, there would have been no need for a Tea Party.

> What percentage of Tea Partiers do you think has ever read a CBO report?

About the same percentage as Democrats, but like Democrats, they can always hire the people who do.

> If Romney is elected he will treat tea partiers like children: he will smile at their enthusiasm and entertain them for a while, then usher them outside so he can have an adult conversation with others in his office. I'll leave it to you to decide whether that is a good or bad thing

I totally agree. But what's a Tea Partier to do? Vote for the guy they know is ruining us, or for the guy who at least says he'll stop the ruination?

Anonymous said...

Wow, Thomas, President Obama couldn't even tell David Letterman what the national debt was. Seriously! I was watching and it wasn't a joke. Talk about whiffing a softball question from a 30 million dollar a year sycophant. Obama is a good public speaker and good at stagecraft, but he's not great on his feet without a teleprompter and he's not a great debater. Stay tuned.

Thomas said...

I don't question tea partier's sincerity, but their perception of reality is often off (they don't realize that tax cuts contribute to a deficit, not a surplus, for example), and their views are far too vague. They emote; they don't propose policy, and that's the way it should be. Sensible Republicans--and for sensible I use the heuristic of someone who prefers to read something like a CBO report or its equivalent on empirical questions or Edmund Burke on normative questions to talk radio or blogs--know this and recognize the tea party for what it is: useful at the polls but little more.

One of the preeminent conservative principles is that of hierarchy: not just anyone is fit to rule. As Kirk would have it, most people "are not naturally suited" for it, and they shouldn't set policy. If we believe the conservative principle that there is a natural hierarchy, we should be suspicious of any politician who does more than pander to mass movements.

Lee said...

> they don't realize that tax cuts contribute to a deficit, not a surplus, for example

Always?

Let's assume that tax revenue is a function of x where x = tax rate, and that the domain of x is from 0% to 100%.

A couple of questions...

1. What would happen to f(x) where x = 0%?

My answer is zero. I assume yours is too.

2. What would happen to f(x) where x = 100%?

My answer is zero. What's yours? If your answer is not zero, then we have radically different presumptions about human nature.

So if we can agree that there is some tax rate x between zero and 100% that would yield a non-zero revenue, wouldn't you have to agree that not all tax rate decreases would yield lower revenues?

> They emote; they don't propose policy

No more or less than someone demanding free medical care proposes policy. Policy comes from wonks and legislators.

> and for sensible I use the heuristic of someone who prefers to read something like a CBO report or its equivalent on empirical questions or Edmund Burke on normative questions to talk radio or blogs--know this and recognize the tea party for what it is: useful at the polls but little more.

So I'm guessing that's gobbledygook that's trying to explain why spending us into bankruptcy is the wise thing to do.

> If we believe the conservative principle that there is a natural hierarchy, we should be suspicious of any politician who does more than pander to mass movements.

I follow the Buckley paradigm: I'd rather be ruled by the first 500 names in the phone book than the Harvard faculty. That goes for anyone else who thinks he knows better than everyone else what's good for everyone else.

Lee said...

> I expect [Romney's] campaign to continue to flail away incoherently, staggering from one gaffe to another until its finally put out of its misery on election day.

Romney had such a bad week last week that Obama is down in Gallup and Rasmussen.

If he keeps having bad weeks like that, he just might get elected president.

Thomas said...
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Thomas said...

It would not surprise me at all that you would prefer a, for example Federal Reserve Chairman who believes he knows no more than the average American about monetary policy. I think that says it all.

Lee said...

You've got to be able to distinguish between the owners and the hired hands, is all.

Anonymous said...

Actually, Thomas, our current Fed Chairman just proved that he knows less than a fifth grader by launching QE3 and bringing us closer not to Greece but to Japan's decades long economic hibernation. Greece comes later. If we keep on printing money to "buy" treasuries for electoral purposes then who is going to honestly buy our debt with hard cash in the future?

Art said...

The Tea Party is known for two issues: getting the debt under control and adherence to the Constitution.

Um, actually, tea partiers hate the Constitution.

Lee said...

Right, and liberals hate the poor.

KyCobb said...

Lee,

We will see in a few weeks who wins. If you look at all the polling at realclearpolitics, its not looking very good for Romney.

Amanda said...

right, we'll see in a few weeks. so why bother talking about it? let's not bother with voting either. we'll just wait to see what happens.