Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Win in 2010: Standing up on Principle

Anyone following national news lately has noticed that Barack Obama is becoming more and more unpopular. For well over a week, Obama's approval ratings had dropped signifcantly. In Rasmussen, not only was his "passion" rating (those strongly approving - those dissaproving) all the way down to -12, but his overall number had fallen below 50. Though over the weekend (likely due to the coverage of the "beer summit") that number reversed itself to 51-48, his numbers are still quite low given the media adoration of him, particularly at this early point in his presidency.

Not only that, Republicans continue to lead in generic Congressional balloting, usually by a margin of 43-39. Democratic Senators and Members of Congress are being met with boos and taunts and laughs. Plus, in individual races across the country, Republican candidates in specific races are faring quite well. In two huge races for governor in 2009, for example -- Virginia and New Jersey -- states that voted for Obama -- the Republican candidates are clearly headed for resounding victories in states that have often been strong indicators of the next year's election. Two examples of this were in 2005, when Democrats won in both states, forseeing a Democratic takeover in 2006, and in 1993, when Republicans won in both states, forseeing a Republican takeover in 1994.

So, the signs are there. Republicans are doing a good job in recruiting for the House. Republicans are likely to pick up several governorships, including here in Kansas. More and more Senate seats -- including in blue states like Connecticut, Pennsylvania, and Illinois -- appear more and more primed for Republican takeovers. If Republicans can hold seats in Missouri and Ohio (increasingly likely based on recent poll numbers, and given that both states are relatively conservative) AND recruit candidates in Colorado, Delaware, and Nevada, Republicans could very well fight back to around 45 Senators for the last two years of Obama's term, which would be huge given the fact that 2012 brings a number of Democrats up for re-election. (One downside of going from 45 to 60 seats in two cycles is that more of your seats are up in four and six years!). In short, the political road map is there for Republicans to make gains.

However, there is some concern on the part of this blog that Republicans won't seize the moment. That they will be all too tempted to rely on Obama's sinking popularity and not rally around a positive conservative message built on sound conservative principles. There will also be a temptation to recruit candidates who will be seen as unifying and moderate who run media-driven consultant-ran campaigns, rather than insurgent grassroots campaign that builds upon the very potent combination of patriotism and anger that has driven so many people to participate in tea parties and town meetings.

If Republicans try to be "Obama lite" or "less liberal" or "moderate" or "unifying", they will only gain seats at the edges and will not actually pick up any REAL support, but rather their gains will be solely dependent on Obama's popularity, which could very well flip back as Obama gets on the campaign trail. Let's not forget 1994 when Clinton was extremely unpopular but two years later was re-elected in a landslide. Furthermore, Republican campaigns who fall for the trap of moderate and unifying won't bring in the activists that have been so active and eager to get involved, and thus will be failing at the opportunity to turn the next 2-4 years into a revolution rather than just another election cycle. Not to mention, any gains we do have will be meangingless, because many of those elected will not be real Republicans, but rather more people like Arlen Specter and Olympia Snowe.

Opportunity is the key word here too -- not just for poltiical gains, but for educating open-minded Americans on the wisdom of conservatie policies. As Obama's hard-left policies continue to fail miserably, Americans will still be looking for effective solutions to the very real problems in various areas of concern.

- Rather than looking to the government to improve health care, they will be more open to hearing about reform that emphasizes the individual and competition.

- Rather than belieiving that the government spending trillions of dollars is the way to prosperity, they will be open to policies that reduce the tax burden on businesses and individuals.

- Realizing that a big government only creates more problems, Americans will be more open to policies which reduce the size of government and also prevent future growth.

- Realizing that liberals desire a state that promotes a culture of death at both the beginning and end of life, Americans will have renewed interest in policies that promote a culture of life.

- Understanding that coddling dictators doesn't work, Americans will look for a President who actually fights the war on terror, promotes freedom, and treats terrorists like terrorists, evil regimes like evil regimes, and believes that the defense department is the one part of goverment we actually want to be big.

The list goes on and on. The question is whether the Republican party will have the courage to stand up on conservative principles that have not only led to successful policies, but success at the ballot box as well.

Our concern is while individual candidates in specific districts may promote conservative ideals, that too often in too many districts national Republican leaders, consultants, and media experts will advise candidates to "campaign to their districts or states" and avoid a conservative theme. They will look to latch on to some magical issue in a particular district to carry them to victory, rather than a set of conservative principles from which specific positions on issues derive from.

The fact is, though yes, in a sense, all politics is local, even off-year elections are national as well. It is national trends and national themes which swing large numbers of House or Senate seats from "not competitive" to "competitive". It is up to national leaders, then, to convey such themes when both recruiting and advising candidates, to switch those seats from merely competitive to actual victories.

Here in Kansas, the 3rd District is a perfect example of such a seat. Dominated by Republican voters, the 3rd District has been held by Dennis Moore for 12 years, and has been regarded as safe as any Democratic seat in the nation since 2004. While many still consider Moore safe, his votes and stances on everything from card check to cap and tax to health care to Gitmo prisoners is starting to give many people the idea that perhaps there is an opening in 2010 for the right candidate.

Unfortunately, due to the nature of the Republican split and the relative political diversity of the 3rd District (from the liberal Wyandotte to the conservative Olathe to the moderate NE/Central JoCo), many will advocate for a candidate who will be "unifying" and adopt for traditional campaign strategies. They will also be tempted to recruit a candidate who has money and who can hopefully buy the race. That, much like it didn't work in 2008 with Nick Jordan, who was liked by both conservative and moderate insiders and had over 1 millioin dollars, won't work again in 2010.

Winning will require four things:

1. Yes, a little money -- as any race requires that.
2. A new, fresh candidate -- preferably a pro-life woman.
3. A strong, conservative, unapologetic message.
4. A grassroots style campaign that involves hitting every possible door in the 3rd district at least once with the candidate or a supporter of that candidate.

It will not be won through glossy mailers which are thrown away, TV ads that are never seen due to DVR's, trying to appeal to every possible viewpoint, or via high priced consultants that offer bad advice.

It will be won through talking to each voter on each doorstep with real ideas and real principles and real facts and a real candidate who brings a new voice to the race. That is the only way you can defeat a 6 term incumbent Congressman.

Simply put, whether it is in our back yard here in Johnson County or in any other district in the country, the only way to true victory -- and to a true movement or revolution that can alter the political and ideological landscape of the country -- is to campaign on conservative principles and to do so through grassroots style campaigns that touch voters on their doorsteps so people have a connection not only with the candidate but with their ideas and values.

Here is hoping that in the next several months, Republicans both in the 3rd District and nationally realize that message and manpower can beat money and mush.