Gingrich Puts Consultants On Notice

Former Speaker Newt Gingrich has a very good column today in which he takes the old model of political consultants to task, along with a few of those practitioners. The column is very lengthy and I didn’t want to post it in its entirety.

After the column open, Speaker Gingrich begins to hit his stride here:

It is appalling how little some Republican consultants have learned from the 2012 defeat.

It is even more disturbing how arrogant their plans for the future are.

Of course these consultants have made an amazing amount of money asserting an expertise they clearly don’t have.

They have existed in a system in which the candidate was supposed to focus on raising money and the smart consultant would design the strategy, spend the money and do the thinking.

This is a terrible system.

Watch the movie “Lincoln.” This was a politician who thought long and deeply.

Read Craig Shirley’s histories of the 1976 and 1980 campaigns (or watch the documentary Callista and I made, “Ronald Reagan: Rendezvous with Destiny”). Reagan knew what he believed, why he was running, and what he wanted to accomplish.

Republicans need to drop the consultant-centric model and go back to a system in which candidates have to think and consultants are adviser and implementers but understand that the elected official is the one who has to represent the voters and make the key decisions.

This part of Gingrich’s column cannot be ignored (this is Gingrich’s writing, and the STEVENS quote is from a joint tv appearance with Romney consultant Stuart Stevens):

The depth of Republican obsolescence on communications technology was highlighted in this comment:

“STEVENS: Really made — if I had tweeted in this campaign this whole discussion we’ve been having about the second amendment would probably be replaced one about the first amendment and whether it should apply to tweeting.”

Cute but insulting. Republicans will not understand why we are losing younger Americans so badly until we realize how many of our consultants don’t have a clue and don’t intend to change.

Finally, Stevens said something profound but I don’t think he understood how profound it was:

“Listen, I don’t think — it would be a great mistake if we felt that technology in itself is going to save the Republican Party. Technology is something to a large degree you can go out and purchase and if we think there’s an off the shelf solution that you can go out and purchase for the Republican Party it’s wrong.

“You know, we’ve had a lot of chance now since the campaign to spend time with the Obama folks and sometimes they had better technology, some cases we have better technology. We don’t have 140 character problem in the Republican Party. We have a larger problem that we have to look at and be patient about it. And trying to think that there’s one solution like this, I just don’t think…”

I went on to agree with him but I don’t think he understood my agreement. In effect I was repudiating the entire structure, budget and culture of the campaign he dominated:

“GINGRICH: I think the way Stuart just said it is exactly right. The technology problem is a culture problem. I mean the Democrats had 54 data analysts and were hiring Ph.Ds in advanced math because they were using the most advanced decision processes in the country. They were bringing in behavioral scientists. They were trying to figure out how you talk to 311 million people and do so in a way that you can survive 8 percent unemployment and get re-elected and it worked.

“Now, I think it’s actually — he’s right in a sense it’s a cultural problem. None of our consultants would have imagined hiring 54 people in the decision area, none of them would have imagined having 24 people [who] did nothing full time except e-mails and then blind tested the best e-mails to see which ones worked. I mean, this — they are a Super Bowl team that we ought to respect deeply. And we are currently a midlevel college team floundering around and I agree. It’s not just — you can’t just go out and buy this, this is a fundamental rethinking of how you relate to the American people.”

As Reagan biographer Craig Shirley told me, “Commercial radio was a new technology in the early 1930′s and Reagan adapted to it. Talking movies were a new technology in the late 30′s and Reagan adapted to it. Network television was a new technology in the early 1950′s and Reagan adapted to it. If Reagan were alive today, he’d be tweeting.”

That final point about Ronald Reagan is exactly right. Reagan would be tweeting today. We have to get tech or die trying, this current approach is seriously hurting our cause.

As you can well imagine, this closing by Speaker Gingrich made my day:

The debate over Rove-Stevens versus the new 21st century model may be the most important intra-Republican debate since the emergence of Reagan and Kemp to challenge the old order in the 1970s.

Newt Gingrich has long advocated a different model of political consulting from the one that current exists. We at GPH Consulting have striven to be different, it probably doesn’t take much looking around to realize that we are indeed different. Engage us here on the blog, tweet with us or pin with us and discover for yourself.

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