I was just brainstorming recently on ideas to help boost McCain’s campaign. Inoticed recently he reshuffled his campaign management, mostly due to pressurefrom the RNC (even though he de facto runs the RNC right now!) and from thisidea that he’s essentially wasted the last 3 months when Obama and Hillary havebeen sparring with each other.
Anyways, what follows are my 9 thoughts:
1. Develop a campaign slogan. We know Obama’s is “Change We Can Believe In”, at least during the primaries. I have NO idea what McCain’s slogan is, and I’m an active supporter and contributor. Something is VERY wrong here. And to McCain’s people: If you don’t think a slogan is important, remember there will be up to 20 Million voters this November who will have spent a grand total of 3 days or less focused on the Presidential campaign. It MIGHT just be handy to have 4 or 5 easy-to-remember words to describe your campaign.
Have a few catch-phrases to describe yourself. I remember Bush in 2000 had “Compassionate Conservative”, “Reformer With Results”, and “Uniter, Not A Divider”. Say what you want about them, I gotta believe they helped him immensely vs. Gore. Where are McCain’s? He needs to move quickly on this, before Obama paints a picture of him that he won’t be able to erase.
Figure out if you are going to defend Bush at all on anything, or completely seek a divorce from anything his Administration accomplished. Also, figure out if you intend to revive/boost the Republican brand (which has been severely damaged in the last 4 years), or to try and seek only independant/Democratic votes. I’m convinced one of the reasons my items #1 and #2 exist is because an overall strategy is yet to be developed. McCain is understandably petrified of being painted as essentially Bush’s 3rd term, yet at the same time if he completely cuts ties and tries to run as some sort of independant character, he simply does further damage to the GOP and gives plausability to the rationale of a Barack Obama campaign.
Figure out if you want to run some sort of nationalized campaign with GOP House & Senate candidates. The chances are pretty low, but I actually think in a year like this, it may actually be a great idea. I believe McCain at least has to try and assert SOME leadership over the Republican Party and try to resurrect the brand. Don’t be approaching a Presidential campaign from a position of weakness, especially when you still need, more than ever, to have a kickin’ convention, is going to require firing up the troops and activists in your party.
Focus group the HELL out of certain demographics you need to win over. Be smart. Go beyond just the obvious swing groups like Hispanics, married women, etc. In many states, in what is supposed to be a wildly Democratic year, McCain is running even or only slightly behind Obama in states like Colorado and New Mexico, while the Democratic U.S. Senate nominee in both states is up by 15-20 points over his Republican rival. FIND OUT EXACTLY WHY. It may be more than just serious concerns about Obama; they may actually see something in McCain that they like. Focus group the voters in those states who are supporting both their Dem. Senate candidate AND McCain simultaneously. When you find out the reasons, exploit those reasons. Run TV ads playing up whatever it is that’s causing them to support you.
Consider “Framing the race” in your favor. What I mean by this is, take control of this race, even if you’re behind. Don’t go too overboard, but play aggessively not defensively. Don’t be afraid to slip a few lines into your everyday stump speech that you KNOW will force Obama to react. Odds are the media will then focus on those arguments. YOU should initiate these arguments. Keep forcing Obama to react to you. I am absolutely convinced everyday that Barack Obama has to spend talking about why John McCain is wrong about Issue X is actually a GOOD thing for McCain. Keep the focus on you and less on Obama. You’ll win the media cycle that way. He’s already done some of this by embarassing Obama into visiting Iraq later this year by making the wise argument that he’s willing to meet with Ahmadinejad in Iran if elected, but doesn’t have to time to meet with Gen. Petraeus.
Run a disciplined TV ad campaign. Have a common look, a common theme to each. ALWAYS remind the voters that this is a race for the Presidency of the United States of America. This race has real consequences. It isn’t just about who has the best rhetoric or bumper sticker. It’s not just about who makes you feel good the best or even about who you agree with on the majority of the issues. The Presidency is the ultimate management position. It’s about war and peace, it’s about the Supreme Court, it’s about the economy and the deficit. This is for who sits in the Oval Office. Never let the voters forget that. When you get the voters thinking about the gravity of their decision, I think it only benefits McCain and only hurts Obama. Obama may be a far superior campaigner and politician, but I sincerely believe a majority of Americans know he’d be an inferior President to McCain.
Stress the idea of “Mistakes” and how devastating they can be if you’re President. I’ll admit this requires a degree of subtlety and sophistication to pull off, but if done, could reap ENORMOUS benefits to McCain. Figure out a way to link the mistakes that Bush made in the Iraq War to the potential mistakes Obama is likely to make in foreign policy if elected. Obama, like Bush, has no military combat experience. Neither had any foreign policy experience when elected. And Obama is “arguably” worse than Bush in the sense, that he really has no plan to deal with Iran or N. Korea, other than to meet with them. He backs the idea of habeus corpus for battlefield combatants captured in Afghanistan. In short, he wants to treat terrorists as common criminals. We tried that in the 90s and it failed miserably, and arguably laid the groundwork for 9/11 to go down. “Mistakes: We can’t afford them.” It’s going to require some real talent to pull off, but that’s why you pay you highest paid staffers the Big Bucks. Get it done. But you simply MUST try to hammer home the idea that if you think Bush is a foreign policy screwup, Obama takes it to a whole higher level.
Lastly, pick a word or catchphrase to constantly link to Obama. If it was up to me, I’d use the word “Irresponsible” or “Irresponsible Change”. Whenever you talk about Obama, call him “Irresponsibly wrong” or an “Irresponsible Change Agent”. This is where your focus-grouping comes in handy. Obama should ideally be up by 20 points right now, and he’s not. Some of it is a perception of McCain as a different type of Republican, but mostly it is concerns about Obama’s qualifications or readiness for the job. Slam that home. Pick a word, stick to it. Even build your theme around it. For example, consider using something along the lines of “McCain: Responsible Change in an Uncertain World”.
Hey…it’s a start. And it’s a WHOLE lot better than this hodge-podge of nonsense I’ve seen so far from the McCain camp that they claim is their message.