The Missed Messaging Opportunity in 2018

A new book by Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer, The Hill To Die On, is a very interesting read overall. The book is not entirely about political campaigns, but there is one particularly interesting passage about the 2018 election cycle that demonstrates why Republicans lost in 2018.

Excerpt from page 285:

McCarthy’s solution was for the party to adopt a massive messaging shift, one that would come to define the 2018 election cycle: That morning he urged the dozens of Republicans gathered to forget the positive message on the economy that the GOP had publicly been touting. Instead, he implored them to go sharply negative on the issues that mattered the most: safety, and Democrats’ efforts to turn America toward socialism, destroy health care, and raise taxes. Why? Because his data showed that it worked, that’s why. McCarthy pointed out that positive messaging moved independent and college-educated women an average of 10.3 percent, while negative advertising moved them 13 percent.

Armed with data from the NRCC and other Republican political entities, McCarthy outlined a new strategy: attack, attack, attack. To win over swing voters and centrist Democrats, they should attack “government controlled, one-size-fits-all health care.” To win Republicans, “government-run” and “government takeover” should be the new watchwords. Never mind that Republicans had been in complete control of Washington for two whole years and were still walloping Democrats for their health care plan, a now-eight-year-old law that the GOP could not find the courage or the votes to repeal.

The authors make a good point in closing that second paragraph; rather difficult to run on more “repeal and replace” nonsensical rhetoric when the last “attempt” at it failed.

But there is a bigger point to what happened in 2018. There was no cohesive messaging about the tax cuts in 2018, which was something we kept pressing for in our podcast episodes during the election cycle last year. Very few candidates were good evangelists for the tax reform passage working and the economy improving.

When the Democrats started losing the argument on employment, as the unemployment number was dropping to new record lows monthly, they shifted to saying, “yeah but, wages are low,” well, in episode 22 we specifically discussed the fact that it took a little time for the economy to adjust, but wages were on the rise. Not only were wages increasing but benefit packages for employees were getting better, we discussed that in episode 10.

The point is, that the miracle that was taking place in the American economy was worth talking about, and instead the party leaders moved to the old standby tactics, rather than sharing with voters that they were the reason the miracle was happening, that they wanted to help expand the miracle in 2019 and 2020 and beyond.

Finally, the Republican party missed a huge opportunity on a conversation about Opportunity Zones (OZs). OZs were tucked away in the 2017 tax reform bill, around page 130 or so. And this concept has the ability to renew and revitalize neighborhoods and communities and it can put people to work immediately. Basically, every state was given a time frame to set aside some poverty-ridden areas to be designated as OZs. Then, investors are allowed to invest some money into these zones for a set amount of time, and during that time, the investors would not be penalized with capital gains taxes. So instead of investors pocketing this money, funds are able to be invested into new ventures in these high-poverty areas: new businesses, new infrastructure, new employment opportunities.

There is always 2019 and 2020 to have this conversation, I suppose…


Welcome California GOP Convention Attendees

California Republican Party Convention 2013 Banner

If you’re attending the California Republican Party Fall Convention in Anaheim this weekend and you found one of our cards in your welcome packet…welcome. Jump right in here, the water’s fine. Take a look around our website, you’re sure to find something of interest.

If you know someone thinking about running for office, or someone ready to take that plunge, but they’re not sure where to start, we’re here to help. Let’s take back California, one community, one neighborhood, one precinct, one voter at a time.

Thank you for checking us out, and have a great fall convention.

The Stark Reality If Republicans Do Not Change

By Steve Parkhurst

Lloyd Green writes an interesting piece here for The Daily Beast.  While many are taking the opportunity to offer a vision for the Republican Party, and many of the opinions start to look the same or reach the same conclusions, this quote offers what I think is a good, specific result if the Republican Party does not change.

You would have to read the entire post to get this full context, so ignore the names:

If Gohmert, Bryant, and Erickson have their way, the Republican’s modernity deficit will further congeal and fester, with the GOP relegated, at best, to a congressional party, one that specializes in oversight hearings and impeachment trials but not one actually tasked by America to govern.

Gingrich: An Immigration Debate Based On Reality

Today, Newt Gingrich published this very good op-ed on the immigration debate. I felt this was worth sharing in its entirety because of its depth.

By Newt Gingrich

Campaigning for president last year included the opportunity to participate in a number of memorable televised debates.

As I think about what the Republican Party must do to rebuild, a particular set of exchanges from these debates stick out as a lesson.

We, the candidates, were asked repeatedly what we would do with the 12 million illegal immigrants currently in the United States, “many of whom have been in this country a long time.”

I always laid out two critical pieces of any immigration solution: the urgent need to secure the border, and the creation of a guest worker program.

But it was also important to answer the real question with intellectual honesty.

There are 12 million people in this country who have come here illegally. It wasn’t our choice for this to happen, but their presence is a fact. So we must decide: Are we really going to deport all 12 million people, many of whom have deep ties here?

My position was that people who have come here recently, have no ties to this country, should go home. But the-size-fits-all deportation of 12 million people, without regard to their circumstances, would constitute a level of inhumanity the American people would never accept.

As I said in a Florida debate, “We as a nation are not going to walk into some family…and grab a grandmother out and then kick them out.”

In response to this call for discretion and humanity, while at the same time enforcing the law, several other candidates — including our party’s eventual nominee — had repeatedly accused me of amnesty.

At an earlier debate Governor Romney replied to my suggestion by saying, in essence, “Amnesty is a magnet…people respond to incentives. And if you can become a permanent resident of the United States by coming here illegally, you’ll do so.”

The Democratic National Committee actually cut an attack ad against Romney based on this very exchange, which you can see here.

The ad below was produced by the Democratic National Committee

It is difficult to understand how someone running for President of the United States, a country with more than 50 million Hispanic citizens, could fail to acknowledge that the American people should not take grandmothers who have been here 25 years, have deep family and community ties — and forcibly expel them.

When asked in a Florida debate if, in light of his criticism, his own immigration proposal would round up 12 million people and deport them, he replied, “Well, the answer is self-deportation.”

And we wonder why the Republican Party achieved historically low levels of support among Latinos in 2012?

As we study what happened last year, we’ve discovered the data support the intuition that this rhetoric can kill the Republican Party among Latinos.

An August 2011 Univision National Poll in collaboration with the Mellman Group and the Tarrance Group found that only about a third of likely Hispanic voters had an unfavorable impression of Governor Romney. Roughly a fifth had a favorable impression, a quarter weren’t sure, and the rest had never heard of him.

The poll showed that 41 percent of likely Hispanic voters were still persuadable — they were weak Obama supporters, or they were undecided or favored Romney. There was opportunity for Republicans.

An election eve poll of Latino voters found that a year later, only 14 percent thought Governor Romney “truly cares about Latinos.” 56 percent said he “does not care about Latinos,” and 18 percent said he is “hostile toward Latinos.” 66 percent, meanwhile, said President Obama “truly cares.”

When asked about Governor Romney’s statements on immigration, including specifically his claim that illegal immigrants would “self-deport,” 57 percent of Latino voters said it made them less enthusiastic about him. Only 7 percent said it made them more enthusiastic, meaning on that issue he was underwater by 50 points.

He went on to be defeated by wide margins among Latino voters.

In fact, if he had won even 36 percent of them, Governor Romney would be President Romney today.

I do not write this to single out Mitt Romney. He worked hard for a long time and his campaign was up against skilled opponents. But the sad fact is that the Republican Party for too long has failed to communicate to Latino Americans a positive vision for the future. Our slide among Asian Americans has been in the works for a generation.

I write this because as the current immigration debate heats up it is critical for us to recognize that words and attitudes really matter. Understanding what people hear matters. We may not mean to say what people hear we say. After decades in politics this is a lesson I have learned the hard way.

As a party, we simply cannot continue with immigration rhetoric that in 2012 became catastrophic — in large part because it was not grounded in reality.

Senator Marco Rubio has done an important service cutting through some of the baloney with the observation that what we have now is de facto amnesty. It is reality. The 12 million people are here, living and working. Many of them are bound together by the web of human relations — family, friends, neighbors — and the American people will not support mass deportation.

That is the reality — the starting point of the debate about what we, as a country, should do.

This does not mean we as Republicans should give up on our principles, or on the priority of securing the border.

It means we must recognize, as I tried to do in that primary debate, that politics is always an intersection of principles and people.

A party that appears to ignore people won’t get the chance to make the case for its principles — any of them.

You can sign-up for Newt’s emails directly.

Jack Kemp Showed GOP How to Appeal to Minorities

Bruce Bartlett has written a very good piece about the late Jack Kemp. I figured it was worth sharing in it’s entirety.

By Bruce Bartlett, The Fiscal Times

On Tuesday, the Jack Kemp Foundation held its annual dinner in honor of the late congressman, HUD secretary and 1996 Republican vice presidential nominee. The two featured speakers were Rep. Paul Ryan and Sen. Marco Rubio, both of whom cite Kemp as a major influence on their thinking. Both are also thought to aspire to the 2016 Republican presidential nomination.

As someone who worked on Kemp’s congressional staff in the 1970s and who followed his thinking carefully until his untimely death in 2009, I agree that his philosophy is one that Republicans should embrace if they hope to ever win the White House again. This is especially the case with regard to the poor, minorities and working class – groups that Mitt Romney denigrated as part of the 47 percent of Americans who only want government to take care of them.

One of the things that Kemp always preached is that there is a difference between government giving people a handout and giving them a hand up. He understood that government had an essential role to play in leveling the playing field. He also understood that workers and minorities need government to intervene on their behalf because the pure free market cannot be depended upon to give them a fair deal.

Kemp always supported workers and labor unions, not surprising given that he was co-founder of a labor union, the American Football League Players Association. Indeed, the very thing that first set Kemp apart from every other Republicans when he was elected to Congress in 1970 was the fact that he actively sought – and received – labor support.

Then, as now, Republicans hated and feared labor unions, viewing them as their mortal enemies. That is why Republicans in Wisconsin, Indiana, Michigan and other states are doing everything in their power to smash both private sector and public employee unions.

Kemp understood that an economic system that does not properly reward workers is not one that can survive. The goal of economic policy should be to raise real wages, he believed. Today, Republicans seem to think that only the well-being of the ultra-wealthy matters for economic progress.

Although Kemp pushed for a cut in tax rates for the wealthy, he was adamant that all workers must share in the benefits of lower taxes. He also focused heavily on the idea that saving, investment, technological advancement and capital formation were the essential goals of economic and tax policy, because they raised productivity, which would raise the wages of workers. Today, Republicans just blithely assume that tax cuts for the wealthy will automatically help the economy without ever explaining how or why.

I believe that Kemp would be truly appalled by the callousness that many Republicans today casually exhibit toward African-Americans, Latinos, Asian Americans and other ethnic minorities. He believed that a great political party had to represent all Americans and not just one race, as Republicans essentially now do. I believe he would denounce, in the strongest possible terms, the idea promoted by some on the Republican right, such as Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, that the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was an unconstitutional infringement on the rights of racists to discriminate in public accommodations.

I recently spoke with journalist Mort Kondracke, who is working on a biography of Kemp, about Kemp’s deep hatred of racism and any form of discrimination against minorities. He did many things that may appear commonplace today but were acts of courage in the pre-civil rights era of the early 1960s.

For example, Kemp was the first white player to ever room with a black player at the Buffalo Bills. While playing with the San Diego Chargers, Kemp objected when the white players were booked into a nice hotel in Dallas and the black players were relegated to a dumpy hotel far away. Because of his complaints, all the players stayed in a not-so-nice hotel together.

In 1965, Kemp supported a boycott of the AFL All Star game because the site, New Orleans, still enforced segregation in restaurants and other public accommodations. The game was moved to Houston as a result.

I also know that Kemp had a far different attitude toward immigrants than virtually all Republicans today. He welcomed them, seeing immigration as one of the economy’s lifebloods. He would be extremely critical of efforts to demagogue Latino immigrants who come here, legally or illegally, just looking to earn an honest living and enjoy the American way of life.

Kondracke also reminded me of a terrific passage in Kemp’s 1979 book, An American Renaissance. It’s hard to imagine any Republican politician of today writing these words:

When someone’s approach to politics is even slightly undemocratic, as the GOP has been as a party, his outlook becomes elitist and patronizing. For years I have been hearing fellow Republicans…talk about “broadening the party’s base.” This has a nice democratic sound to it. But the programs that flow from the idea are almost always patronizing….

Instead, as Kemp complained, Republicans tend to focus on marketing – PR, advertising, gimmicky slogans – to sell the same old policies that have failed time and again in the political marketplace. They strenuously resist reexamining their policies because they either believe such policies are perfect or fear admitting error in supporting those that have failed.

Thus we hear a lot from Republicans about finding ways of attracting the fast-growing Latino population or long-lost black voters, a third of whom voted Republican before 1964 Republican nominee Barry Goldwater voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, after which it fell to 10 percent. But such efforts tend to focus almost exclusively on tokenism – nominating a Latino such as Sen. Rubio, who is of Cuban descent, for president or appointing African American Rep. Tim Scott to the Senate to replace the departing Jim DeMint.

Tokenism almost never sells and is patronizing to those at whom it is directed. Only a genuine recognition that many Republicans policies, such as slashing government aid to the poor to pay for tax cuts for the ultra-wealthy, are deeply unpopular in the nonwhite population will help. As long as Republicans have an us-versus-them mentality – with “them” being anyone who is not white – they don’t have a prayer of making inroads with minorities.

The first step toward renewal is for Republicans to adopt an attitude of genuine empathy and inclusion toward workers, minorities and the poor, as Kemp had. Better policies will automatically flow from it.
Find the original column here.

Ryan, Rubio, Kemp And The Republican Future

By Steve Parkhurst

Last Night, Congressman Paul Ryan and Senator Marco Rubio spoke on the future of the Republican party at the 2012 Jack Kemp Leadership Award Dinner.

It’s no secret I am an avid admirer of the late Jack Kemp, and the man who many have determined to be his protege, Congressman Paul Ryan. I’ve also become a fan of Marco Rubio. The irony is not lost on me that two men who want to bring all Americans into the fold (and both possibly have the best chance to do so) were the featured speakers and the two most recent winners of the Jack Kemp Leadership Award.

Rather than quoting speeches and singling out highlights, here are both speeches in their entirety.

California GOP sinking into third-party status

From the LA Times:


So Bruce McPherson, 68 — former California secretary of state and centrist legislator and current candidate for the Santa Cruz County Board of Supervisors — has re-registered as an independent, or “no party preference.”

In doing that, McPherson is fitting into the pattern of millions of Californians who have snubbed the parties and become nonpartisans.

More than one-fifth of registered voters, 21.3%, are listed with no party preference, according to the Secretary of State. That’s double the 10.7% in 1996 and more than quadruple the 5% in 1972.

In the last 16 years, the GOP’s slice of the electorate has fallen from 37% to 30.2%. The Democrats’ share also has declined, but less precipitously — from 47.1% to 43.4%.”

When will this trend start to reverse?  The time is now. Let’s get back in the game California Republicans.