Republican candidates must stop "kneecapping each other" over who is most like GOP icon Ronald Reagan and create a new agenda to win over voters, noted GOP strategist Ford O'Connell says.
"Over the past two presidential cycles . . . we wound up engaging in a 'battle royal' over who's the right player to Ronald Reagan," O'Connell told "The Steve Malzberg Show" on Newsmax TV.
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"Ronald Reagan's the greatest president of the modern era, but essentially having this sort of a bloodbath . . . makes us really look out of touch," he said Tuesday.
"It really causes the candidates to start kneecapping each other and never actually articulating the agenda or 22nd-century moving forward . . . Half the voters we need weren't even alive when Reagan was in the saddle."
O'Connell, a key player in the presidential campaign of John McCain and Sarah Palin, said the principles of Reagan remain solid despite the gamesmanship they have sparked.
"[They] put forth a positive message. Project yourself as a problem solver and expand it. Those are timeless," he said.
"The problem is we wind up getting in there saying, no, I'm more Reagan than you are. And at the end of the day, the whole thing makes us look pathetic."
Republican weaknesses and a shrewd Democratic playbook add up to ongoing GOP losses, believes O'Connell, who is managing director of Civic Forum Strategies and the chairman of CivicForumPAC.
"The Democrats have . . . been surviving over the past seven years on three things: the war on women, despite minorities, and hate the poor," he said.
"And until we have somebody that can actually put forth a positive message and then return fire, we're not going to win the White House, particularly with Hillary [Clinton] on the horizon."
That means Republicans must deal with immigration reform and other hot-button issues, he says.
"With respect to immigration reform, it's something that we need to do, that bill in front of the Senate is garbage," O'Connell said.
"We have to do something more along the lines of what [columnist] George Will is suggesting: a bill that essentially gets us security, gets the visa situation in the right place, and actually then decides how we're going to do it, whether it's a path to citizenship, legal status, or whatever."
O'Connell says Republicans too often get "stuck in our own little media echo chamber."
"I love Fox News dearly and I love talk radio, but we need to go where the eyeballs are . . . whether that's morning talk shows, whether that's Bravo, whatever," he said.
"[That's] because essentially a lot of people don't follow politics. Do you realize why [Democrats] do so well with unmarried women? Seventy percent of unmarried women have no interest in politics whatsoever. When Barack Obama in September of 2012 dropped the White House [press] corps and started going on things like 'The View,' he did very well."
Asked to pick out a few Republicans who might be ready for a White House run in 2016, O'Connell named New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie and Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker.
"I do prefer the governors . . . the buck stops with them," he said.
"This is going to be a long game, and whoever wins is going to be playing the long game, but if I had to say it right now, I'd be looking more towards Scott Walker and Christie."
O'Connell warns that whoever runs, they will likely face a Hillary Clinton who "the progressives are now trying to pull . . . to the left even more."
"It's bad enough that it's Hillary Clinton, but Hillary Clinton on top of Barack Obama . . . my gosh."
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