Mitt Romney’s Path to the Republican Nomination and a Fighting Chance in 2012

8 Nov

A coworker of mine told me yesterday that Mitt was headed back to Iraq and Afghanistan, for a kind of fact finding/support our troops/hey guys I’m not saying I am, but I’m definintly running for President next time around…tour.  But this sparked a conversation about the Gov’s possibilities in 2012 and his viability as a Presidential contender, and I began to out line to her what he needed to do to get elected and I think it boils down to this: Forget Iowa.

Actually, forget the accepted understanding of the parties base. I’m not saying ignore them, but the reality is that the last election cycle was purified the Republican party down to the pure conservatives and reactionaries. These two groups are not a coalition around which you can build a successful Presidential bid, so what can any Republican candidate do? Especially, the mindnumbingly popularity of Sara Palin continues to rise.

The answer, in my less then veteran opinion, is to build a new coalition to bring back social moderates, and minorities. This isn’t that hard to do because those groups resonate well with the local politics of one of the most important states in a primary election – New Hampshire.  This is why I saw forget Iowa, which is a bastion of social conservatives who want two things: Ethenol and Christianity. Neither of which will win you a national election. So don’t worry about it.

If Romney, who currently spends a great deal of time living at his New Hampshire lake side estate anyway, focuses on the New England conservatives: ie socially moderate to libertarian and fiscally conservative, he would have a real shot at winning the primary and being ideologically viable on the national scale.

The problem that Republican’s will face over the next 2 and a half years is not Democrats, who we all know will fumble and bumble enough to open the door to challengers, it’s themselves.  While some southern Republican Senators may say that they want an ideologically pure conservative caucus, it’s unlikely they would enjoy the irrelevancy that comes from losing members.

I live in Massachusetts where there are 5 Republicans in the State Senate and 16 in the House…the only thing that they can do is call for a Role Call vote (with the exact number necessary). There is a great deal of virtue to serving a broad continuancy to ensure relivancy and legislative significance. Besides, President’s win elections by building ideological bridges, not isolating themselves with those who already agree with them.

It’s clear though that Governor Romney understands this, and more so understands that the reality of national politics is primarily about 1 thing: branding. President Obama was successful for three reasons:

200px-ObamaHopePoster1.) 8 years of an unpopular Republican President

2.) He is a gifted public speaker,  who understands the dynamitcs of the 30 second bite

3.) He knows the national politics all about labels

President Obama when running as a candidate stood for: Hope and Change. that was it, that’s what he plugged and that’s what resonated with the voters. Hope for what didn’t matter as much as that he was offering it, and change to what didn’t matter as much as long as it was happening.

James Carville, noted Democratic strategist and archetype of the Bill Clinton Presidential campaign said, “When you say a little you say a lot. Repetition is your friend. Our job (strategist) is often taking a full vessel and emptying it.” It’s definintely a sad commentary on the state of the American socio-political environment, but even sadder because Carville is right and Karl Rove said the same thing but called it message discipline.

This is what Govenor Romney needs to spend the next year or so doing, finding the label and corresponding message. This is a label and message that will resonate with conservatives but rally discontented fiscal conservaives and moderates, who disagree with the bank bailouts and stimulus packages but voted for Obama last year. He’s already trying some of these labels out on his Free and Strong America Political Action Committee, the name of which is both a label and a name. The PAC emblem is even more telling:

eaglelink The Eagle head is meant to resonate with conservatives as a sign of national strength, and the fields below echo the American heartland. The circularness of the design would evoke in the viewer a sense of completeness and unity. This all sounds nuts rights. But look at another famous political symbol.

You can’t deny the similarities. The red fields, evoking imagery of the flag and the heatland, with the sun rising over them. This symbol was

obama-300x300

most often seen witht he words Hope or Change, the symbol becomes synomis with the label and the candidate is the label. It doesn’t matter about experience, policy or character as long as the label sticks.  It’s just a matter of creating the message and having the discipline to drill the label into the public. Which is not as hard to do as you think, the President is still doing it now on health care. What the media calls over exposed, most people would call visable. Most people don’t watch CNN, MSNBC or Fox all day, they might catch it at night or a little onthe weekends, but they won’t see the President more than once.  That one message in a campaign, followed by the symbol, will stay in someones brain and when they see the posters, bumber stickers or shirts they will think hope and change = Obama. It’s beyond a simple equation and Romney seems to be catching onto. kerry_edwards

mccain-palinIf you don’t believe me look at a few more of these images. Which of these guys won, that’s right neither of them. Now I’m not saying it was only because there sign, there are tons of other factors. But modern politics is about branding, and these campaigns didn’t understand how to completley establish a lable for their campaigns. Where they ran on issues, Obama ran on ideas. This is what Romney needs to do.

The thing is he’s the only Republican that seems to understand this. Palin is wondering off hunting moose and quitting the only experience she had, Mike Huckabee is putting in time on his fox late night show, commenting on the issues of the day withough establishing anything more an knee jerk reactions. Neither are viable national candidates, both play to a certain class of the party, but neither play to the middle of the country…where almost everyone is. The question will be what is the message and lable of Mitt Romney?

I don’t know, if I did I’d be telling someone whose important and making more money than I do know. But I know the answer isn’t in Iowa, it’s in New Hampshire where moderates love candidates who have a broader appeal beyond to their base. The Republican base is a anchor around the necks of the party if it refuses to grow and find common ground. This is what Romney needs to do.

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