In order to defeat an incumbent president the opponent must to well organized, well financed, and have policies that offer an attractive alternative to the status quo.
A political campaign is very much like a marketing campaign for a product that is being sold to a mass audience. The product must be attractive — with a message that resonates with consumers and convinces them to buy what you are selling.
|President Obama campaigns with all of the trappings of the White House, including Air Force One.
Now that former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney has all but secured the Republican nomination for president, it’s time for him to demonstrate in bold fashion that he offers the American public an attractive alternative to the mushrooming national deficit, persistent unemployment and class warfare that have become hallmarks of President Obama’s administration.
A successful campaign will control what it can, and seek to influence what it can't control.
Here are four things the presumptive GOP nominee can do immediately to build his brand against President Obama, who has an inherent advantage in being able to campaign with the trappings of the White House — not the least of which is being able to travel aboard Air Force One to a campaign stop in one city, while Vice President Joe Biden campaigns in another:
1. Announce a VP Choice in June:
It makes no sense at all to wage a national campaign against an incumbent president with one hand tied behind your back.
Obama and Biden in short order will be crisscrossing the country knocking the stuffing out of Romney. Why should Republicans wait till August to announce their VP choice?
The GOP Convention is in late August followed immediately by the DNC Convention after Labor Day. That leaves little more than 60 campaign days to defeat an incumbent president.
Doesn’t it make perfect sense to have Romney and his running mate out there making their case for change sooner rather than later?
Republicans have a choice: either they will have a more “exciting” convention or they can win the election. To rely on tradition is to be living in the past. As I stated earlier, without risk there will be no reward. It is more risky to wait to announce your VP choice in August than to announce in June.
With the DNC Convention immediately following the GOP Convention there is likely to be a little “bounce” from the GOP Convention and the announcement of a VP choice.
An earlier announcement would likely give the campaign more of a “bounce” for a longer period of time. It also forces the Obama camp to focus on two principals instead of just one.
A GOP VP candidate has the ability to say things that Romney cannot.
With such late conventions, which shorten the time of the general election, it makes perfect sense to announce a VP candidate now. He or she can also raise money, which is a tremendous asset.
It is time for voters to know who is behind Romney on policy. Who are the experts he has attracted?
Reagan’s Kitchen Cabinet was very effective in honing policy and showing voters and the media who it is he relies on for policy.
Romney needs to be seen with well recognized and respected experts and leaders on the economy, jobs, healthcare, foreign policy, entitlements, military, etc.
These experts should help the candidate articulate policy and advance it during the campaign. Romney needs to announce his own Kitchen Cabinet. He must also release concise policy papers wherein he addresses the main campaign themes that the election will turn on.
It is not enough to be against Obama. Gov. Romney must advance an alternative to Obama that voters will be attracted to.
3. Campaign Plane:
Romney should be using his campaign plane as a valuable tool beyond just transportation.
Briefers should be invited on legs of travel to brief Romney and his staff. This is a great use of the candidate’s time and it also offers the candidate an opportunity to hear from real life actors who he may want to tap for his administration should he be successful.
Another advantage to using the plane as a briefing tool is it lets the traveling press corps see the briefers come and go and also be briefed themselves.
4. Convention Control:
Romney must put a strong convention team in place now. Although it is a RNC event — it is really Romney’s convention beyond the party platform.
His team must take control. The convention must be scripted and thematic. Speakers must be chosen for prime time speeches that are complimentary to Romney’s message and direction.
He must not let speeches — or those who give them — detract from the message and direction the campaign needs to advance.
Obama is counting on recreating his huge outdoor speech in Denver in 2008 where it was all about him. I suggest Romney, prior to the first night of the convention, have a huge outdoor event too. But his will be a salute to the men and women in uniform. It will not be about him — it will be about them.
A huge patriotic non-partisan concert for the troops attended by delegates as well as the general public would be in stark contrast to the Obama event. Ending the event with a huge firework display would be a fitting start to a week of American politics.
Like any business, without risk there is no reward. A candidate who plays it safe and is afraid to be bold in policy, principle and position will not be able to break through the white noise to get his or her message across.
Obama and company will try desperately to remain in power and resurrect their brilliant campaign of 2008.
The only problem is that now President Obama has a record to defend and there is no more incumbent to blame. At the end of the day, Obama will be judged on his record and he will not be successful at blaming others, or engaging in class warfare.
Republicans must be bold, smart — and yes, even risky to win in November.
It is Romney’s election to lose.
Bradley A. Blakeman served as deputy assistant to President George W. Bush from 2001-04. He is currently a professor of Politics and Public Policy at Georgetown University and a frequent contributor to Fox News Opinion. Read more reports from Bradley Blakeman — Click Here Now.
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