What the Election Should Teach the Republicans

Thursday, 06 Nov 2008 06:24 PM

By Christopher Ruddy Newsmax

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The 2008 election is not yet a distant memory, and there are important lessons to be learned.

A good accounting of what happened will help Republicans make a comeback.

Here’s my take:

  • Republicans need a candidate who’s unafraid of being a Republican. For a 72-year-old, John McCain gave an impressive campaign performance, but he lost. Why? Because he failed to articulate exactly how his opponent was such a danger to our economy, national security, and American values.

  • The vice president counts. Sarah Palin gave McCain a huge boost and helped propel him to front-runner status by mid-September. She soon became a media target. After a stream of negative articles that went unchallenged, her favorability ratings declined among swing voters. Still, Palin did a remarkable job of bringing charisma to the ticket and raising money.

  • The media bias was simply unbelievable. With the exception of Fox News, Newsmax, talk radio, and a handful of outlets, the major media worked overtime to elect Barack Obama. Despite all the talk of a profusion of media with cable and the Internet, the media continue to be the same old media.

  • Money can buy an election. Obama raised a record-breaking $650 million to win the White House. Compare that to what McCain received — $85 million — from federal financing. If Obama did not have such a huge money advantage, it is doubtful that he would have snatched the nomination from Hillary Clinton, let alone the White House from McCain.

  • Truth still works. Money is important, but the election proved that Republicans don’t have to go dollar for dollar against Democrats to win. Despite numerous disadvantages, McCain’s showing was respectable. Had his campaign been more hard hitting and raised a tad more money, he could have won.

  • The Swift Boat-like groups (527s) were missing in action this year. The talk is that the Bush White House told big Texas money not to back McCain. Also, many of the backers of the 527s have long memories of the 2004 election and remember that McCain was one of their biggest critics.

  • The Republicans need a “MoveOn.org.” One group that may fit the bill is The National Republican Trust PAC, also known as GOPtrust.com. Headed by former journalist Scott Wheeler, the group raised more than $10 million from more than 40,000 donors in just weeks. The group took heat for its Rev. Wright TV ad, but it appears to have had an effect, as undecided voters broke overwhelmingly for McCain.

  • Republicans need to be “open sourced.” The McCain campaign tightly controlled its own campaign, and the RNC and other Republican affiliates. The GOP needs to look at the success of Ron Paul’s grass-roots campaign that raised more than $30 million — an astonishing feat. Paul let his supporters do their thing. For a candidate on the fringe, he made an impression.

  • Republicans must develop a strategy to win over new Hispanic voters — and soon. Shifting demographics could spell disaster for the Republican Party. If Obama and a Democratic Congress get their way and give citizenship to some of those 12 million illegals, Republicans could be locked out of the White House, not to mention Congress, for decades, as most will vote Democratic.

    Understanding what happened in 2008 will be key in rebuilding the GOP in 2009 and after.

    The early months of the Obama administration will be critical months for Republicans. My guess is that Obama will move aggressively to stifle talk radio with a new "Fairness Doctrine."

    The Democrats see talk radio as their main opposition in the country. Reduce its influence and they will have an easier time putting through their legislative agenda.

    If Republicans lose these two battles — talk radio and citizenship for illegals — their ability to make a comeback will be diminished.

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