John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Rocket-Science. Not.

Posted on March 21, 2013

This is not rocket science, people.

Mitt Romney didn’t win the election because he couldn’t convince enough people that he would be a better President than Barack Obama.

Had Mitt Romney been a better candidate, we would be having a far different discussion today about the fate of the Republican Party.

The Republican National Committee released it autopsy of the 2012 campaign, where it did a deep dive into the reasons why the GOP lost the last election.

What it found wasn’t that surprising.    We don’t do well with minorities, women, gay people, liberals, young people, etc.

People thought of us as the party of old white men, which is pretty shocking, considering that just about every leader in the party is a relatively old white man.

But as a white man who is getting older every, I feel some comfort that at least I am in the right place.   That was a joke, people.

Everybody talks about how the GOP can’t sacrifice its “principles”.   For me, the number one principle of a political party is to win elections.   If you can’t win elections, than as a political party, you are completely useless to me.  And every time the party puts forward a candidate who can’t win or doesn’t win, that is a big sacrifice of those principles that the right wing likes to talk about so much.

If you want to blather on about some intellectual or philsophic point, join a debating society.  You join a political party to win elections and run the country.

Mitt Romney didn’t win this past election for many reasons.  One of them is easy to figure out because he was a guy who made a living buying companies and then firing people from those companies so that he could make a bundle of money.

He was a rich guy who paid about an effective tax rate of 13 percent who complained about the 47% who paid about the same effective tax rate as he did.

He was a guy who 10 years ago was the most pro-choice Republican governor in the country who magically became pro-life when he decided to run for President.

He was the most socially awkward Presidential contender since Richard Nixon, prone to goofy inexplicable statements that would drive his campaign staff nutty.

His campaign staff wasn’t that great.  They didn’t have much of a strategy to beat Obama, they had one of the worst turn-out operations in history, their advertisements were at best mediocre, they had poisonous relationships with the media, and they had zero outreach.  Beyond that, everything was hunky-dory.

So why  did the Republican Party nominate a deeply-flawed candidate with a second rate campaign team?

Because Romney was the only sane one in the primary and his campaign had the only rational people in any of the campaigns that ran in the GOP primary.

Romney against Obama, the match-up was none too good for the GOP.

But arrayed against Newt Gingrich, Hermann Cain, Michelle Bachmann, Rick Santorum, Rick Perry and Ron Paul, Romney looked downright Presidential.

Except when he didn’t, like when he decided to out-immigrant bash the rest of the field, so that he could permanently turn-off a key voting block.

Probably the most important lesson of this election was the one not mentioned in the GOP autopsy:  We need better candidates running for President.

Mitt Romney was no great shakes.  Neither was John McCain.  And truth be told, even George W. Bush had significant downsides.

We need a governor who largely agrees with the base of the Republican Party on most fundamental issues, but who has a track-record of effectively bringing people together to get good things done for the American people.

Why is this so hard?

We have plenty of governors with that kind of track record.  Bobby Jindal.  Mitch Daniels.  Chris Christie.   Bob McDonnell.  Scott Walker could be one.

The party seems to insist on two things.

First, you need to be ideologically pure.  Second, you need to be incredibly rich.

But ideological purity combined with incredible wealth does two things to a candidate.   It makes them unable to build coalitions and it puts distance between them and the average, working voter.

People think that Republicans are the party of the rich because we keep nominating rich people to be our standard bearers, rich people who have no ability to connect to the working class, unless, of course, they come from the working class.

The autopsy revealed some significant structural problems with how Republican campaigns are run, and I thought they offered some pretty good suggestions.

One bit of advice that wasn't included.  Stop spending so much damn money on campaign commercials and spend a lot more money building up the party grassroots operation.   And by grassroots, I mean get money out of Washington, put party organizers in every community and really, really build up the GOP from the ground up.

The Republican Party spends way too much money on ad-makers, communications and campaign consultants who feather their own nests but don’t do much to actually drive up the vote.

This takes hard work.  It takes paying hired hands to live in communities (or better yet, hired hand from local communities) to basically live and breathe this stuff.  We need the state parties to be more effective.  We need to revitalize the Republican party’s relationships with Chambers of Commerce, with the Rotary Clubs, with the different Hispanic organizations, black business groups, women executive forums, etc.

They need to be organizing right now, meeting people, building excitement, building communities, and organizing, organizing, organizing.  Sure, technology can help, but technology is a tool, it is not a substitute for personal contact.

The Republican Party has to do the hard work and cast a skeptical eye at every new slick vendor that comes up with a new idea to spend the money of the donors.

Campaign commercials do not win elections and when money is siphoned off from the organizing vote budget to pay for the big salaries of some of these ad-makers, it makes it easier for our guys to lose elections.

None of this is rocket-science.  But it is hard work.  And a lot of it.