Friday, November 13, 2009

Top 5 Things Republicans and Democrats Must Do in 2010

Summary: Both parties will be facing tough battles for their seats in 2010. Here are the top five things for each party to pay attention to going into election season.

Yesterday I went through the data and analysis of the new Gallup poll which found the GOP to be leading the Democrats on the generic ballot, and the most recent Cook Political Report ratings.

As promised, I’m using our analysis to bring you the top five things the GOP and Democrats will want to do to maximize their vote potentials in next year’s midterm elections.

Top 5 Thing Republicans Must Do:

1) Don’t get caught up in primaries. If there is any lesson Republicans should have learned from their recent gubernatorial victory in Virginia, it’s that they ought to speak to the middle as quickly as possible. Primaries can be a good thing - particularly for raising name recognition of the eventual nominee, and giving a slew of candidates the chance to bash the other side together - but they also require a pandering to a base that, for Republicans, is a bit outside the political mainstream. Of course, it will be difficult to avoid primaries - Republicans see 2010 as a good year for them, and as such, they all want to take advantage of an opportunity to advance themselves personally - but the state parties, the RNSC and RNCC should all do what they can to avoid such battles for the base.

2) Use the Tea Party folks wisely. These right-wing protesters are fired up and ready to go, and such conservative activists could be a valuable resource to a Republican’s campaign - knocking on doors, making phone calls, and donating small amounts of money. However, they could be a burden. If you, as a GOP candidate, hold a rally with such activists bringing in signs depicting President Obama as Hitler or the Joker, your campaign will end up being sidetracked by your opponents and the media over the actions of your supporters. That would put you in the difficult position of maintaining the base support while looking appealing to the middle. Your campaign should actively pursue the Tea Party folks, but they should also make sure these activists don’t bring offensive signs to rallies, blog, or - worst of all - talk to the press.

3) Steer clear of “special interests” for 2010. PACs bring in a lot of money, which is always valuable, but if there’s one thing that could lose confidence in the Tea Partiers, it’s special interest money. Simply put, the Tea Parties are part of a larger populist backlash to the bailouts and lobbyists who secure grants under the stimulus bill. If your war chest is found to be connected to a banking firm or any other Wall Street group, it could hinder the confidence the base has in you.

4) Work had to find a balanced message. Using Tea Party activists will not always be easy. Democrats are going to want to tie you to Glenn Beck and the rest of the crazy right - but you can’t let them if you want to win. Republicans must appeal to the middle while still firing up the conservative base. The easiest thing to stress, of course, will be deficit spending. This will embolden the base and still sound perfectly reasonable to mainstream voters. There are all sorts of ways to carefully craft a message that achieves both goals, but it’s of the utmost importance to get it right, especially for Republicans and especially for 2010.

5) Don’t hold back on attacks. Relentless criticism of the Democrats is what’s going to win this election. Never miss an opportunity to attack an incumbent Democrat, even if he or she is not in your district. Criticize Obama’s “out-of-control” spending, Pelosi’s no-holds-barred style in the House, and Charlie Rangel’s tax issues as much as possible - and tie your opponent to that culture of spending, corruption, etc. Democrats will want to tout all the good things they’ve done, but you have to constantly remind voters that their governance has not been perfect - and suggest you can do better.

Top 5 Things Democrats Must Do:

1) Make sure the base believes in you. Many moderate Democrats in Congress seem to think that the only way they can win a re-election is by opposing the current healthcare reform bills. But the surest way to be defeated is to fail on healthcare reform. The base believed in you in 2006 and 2008 because you said you would bring change - if you fail them with big margins in Congress and control of the White house they will not help your re-election campaign and they may stay home on Election Day. That would be the surest way for a Democrat to lose. If the base doesn’t show up, you’re finished. If you’re running for re-election, you must fulfill at least some of your basic promises to your supporters.

2) Know your district. No campaign is the same - each one must tailor specifically to the appropriate constituency. If you’re running to replace another Democrat, ask yourself “was he popular?” If not, distance yourself from him, if he was, then win his support publicly. Is your district home to a lot of healthcare provider employees? Then figure out how to frame an argument for reform in a way that proves it will be beneficial to them. Is the district urban, suburban, or rural? Each will have it’s own implications for how you should explain your positions on energy, spending, etc.

3) Make it about you, not your party. 2010 is a backlash year. The Democrats in Washington and in the state capitals have not achieved everything they set out for simply because changing laws and improving government takes time. If you’re an incumbent, make sure to tout all the good things you’ve already done for the district specifically, such as Harry Reid is doing in Nevada. If you’re running for a new office, explain why your experience (doing whatever) makes you a particularly good candidate to help bring change. Don’t let your message get caught up in supporting the president and the ideals of the Democratic Party - show how you personally will be an effective leader with an independent streak.

4) Watch the unemployment rate closely. If your district has high unemployment right now, you need to be concerned - but if the stimulus has not successfully provided more jobs by October of next year you’ll be in a panic. If you’re an incumbent you need to get to work next year helping the unemployed. If you’re not an incumbent you will really need to tout that independent streak, explaining why the stimulus and the bailout hasn’t helped your constituency, and how you will make it better for them. Jobs are the biggest issue for the voter who has lost one - you must give them reason not to blame you for that.

5) Campaign like your job depends on it - because it does. If there’s one thing Democrats should have learned from the Virginia race, it’s that campaigns matter - and lackluster campaigning just won’t do. Democrats everywhere are worried, and rightfully so. Sure, I don’t expect too many Democratic seats to be lost next year, but that doesn’t mean you can sit back and relax. It will take a clever campaign staff, experienced consultants, and hard work to win in 2010. Make sure you keep track of how well you’re doing - with internal polls, message testing, Voter ID operations, etc. - and learn where you need to improve. Get out early and get out often to meet voters, raise money, and get positive press coverage. Anything short of everything will put you at risk.

No comments: