John Feehery: Speaking Engagements


Dear Governor Romney

Posted on November 8, 2008

Dear Governor Romney


            Dear Governor Romney,


            I did not support you in your campaign to become President in 2008.  I am inclined to support you in the next election.  As you decide if you want to make another run for President, here are some things I would like you to think about.


            Historically speaking, it is very difficult to unseat an incumbent President.  In the 20th century, only three Presidents who sought reelection did not win, William Howard Taft, Jimmy Carter and George Bush.  Two of those lost because of third party challenges (Teddy Roosevelt and Ross Perot) that divided their party.  Given the popularity of Barack Obama, that kind of division seems unlikely.  In other words, getting elected will be an uphill battle for you or any Republican candidate. 


            The once mighty Republican Party is rapidly declining.  Our Congressional majorities have shrunk to pitiful minorities.  Our brand is still toxic in many parts of the country.  We no longer have Congressional representation in the Northeast, our presence in the Rust belt is diminishing, we are losing on the West Coast, and the solid south is not too solid any more.  Other than that, things are going great.


            Republicans have lost the cities, are losing the suburbs, and can only count on rural America, except in those parts of rural America that elect pro-gun, pro-life Democrats.  On the bright side, Oklahoma seems like it is turning more Republican.


            While we do have some successful governors (Arnold Swarzenegger, Charlie Crist) but they stress their independence from the Republican brand.  That is the only way they can win.


            As you make your plans to become the 45th President of the United States, I urge you to think outside the box about the themes you want to stress in your campaign.   Be a transformational Republican who can appeal to all regions and all wings of the party.


            Be a thoughtful candidate.  Resist easy solutions.  Don’t stoop to demagoguery. 


            Stress your accomplishments.  Don’t run away from your record as Governor.  Talk about your health care plan with pride.  Republicans need to be engaged on the health care issue and you have done it well. 


            Don’t pander to the talk radio blowhards.  Most Americans listen to them for entertainment, not for direction.  Be willing to stand up to them when you think they are wrong.


            When it come to the issue of immigration, be open to it.  Don’t demonize immigrants.  America is great because of its immigrants.  They are the lifeblood of our economy.   We have a broken system that needs to be fixed.   But that is failure of government, not of people who simply want a piece of the American dream.  


            Meet with the President of Mexico.  Try to gain an understanding of how we can fix this problem.  And as you talk to the President Calderon, also talk about how we can work together to vanquish the drug lords.  They are a threat to both countries and our countries need to cooperate to beat them. 


            Become an ambassador for trade.  Barack Obama will be hostile to free trade as President.  Meet with our top trading partners and fill in the rhetorical gap.  Meet the Canadians, the Chinese, the Brazilians, the Indians, the Europeans, and start making the case for trade back home.


            Spend some quality time in Silicon Valley.   Find out who the smartest innovators are in the valley, and figure out where they are going in the next twenty years.  Find out how to use their latest technologies for your campaign. Figure out what the next Facebook is.  Meet with the Google people and figure out why they love Obama so much.  See what they need from the government and what they don’t need.


            Go to Hollywood.  Don’t waste your time with the Alec Baldwins of the world, but talk to those creative types who are tired of liberal orthodoxy.  Have Arnold introduce you.  See what kinds of ideas they have for the future, and give them your thoughts about the state of the media. 


            Meet with African-American groups.  They may not support you, but then again some might.  Meet with black preachers about their concerns with liberal orthodoxy.  Remember what happened with Proposition 8 in California.  Many African Americans aren’t as liberal as their leaders who like them to be.


            Meet with Cardinal Egan of New York and Cardinal George of Chicago, and if you can swing it, meet with Pope Benedict.   Go to Notre Dame and talk to the students there.  


            In fact, talk to college students across the spectrum.  Go to Harvard, sure, but also go Michigan State and Marquette, Prairie State in Illinois.  Find out what kids are thinking and use that information as you craft your message.


            Don’t use the political strategists from the past.  Cultivate your own team of strategists for the future.  Don’t fall in the trap of fighting the last war.  Revolutionize campaigning. Bring new voters into the Republican Party.  Preach a message of inclusiveness.  Don’t demonize any groups.  Be tolerant of different lifestyles. 


            Don’t let the word liberal or conservative cross your lips.  Substitute the words ineffective, effective, incompetent and competent.  Prepare for a non-ideological debate.  Stress solutions, accountability, results, and innovation.


            Transform the party.  And when you win, transform the country.