The 10 Commandments of Political Warfare for the Romney Campaign
by Steve Deace
This article was originally published on Townhall.com.
Given my five-year skepticism and/or hostility to the potential of a Mitt Romney presidency, the Romulans may feel as if I am one of the last patriots on earth they should take advice from.
While the prospect of choosing between Romney and Obama may still feel like choosing between a root canal with no anesthesia, and having your throat slit with a dull, rusty blade, we are reaching the point where the Romney Campaign’s struggles could quite possibly impact far more superior candidates and causes down ballot across the country without a course correction.
For example, the Intrade odds on Republicans recapturing the U.S. Senate – a must if there is any hope of repealing Obamacare – have dropped from 60% a month ago to 38% this week. Why? Because as Romney’s numbers in key battleground states like Ohio and Virginia decline, it has the very real potential of dragging down the GOP Senate candidates in those states as well.
But it doesn’t have to end this way.
President Obama clearly has the momentum right now, but he still has inherent weaknesses as a candidate his record of failure will not allow him to overcome. That’s why he’s running instead on who he wants the American people to think Romney is—the very stereotypical rich, elitist, Wall Street/K-Street Republican tycoon most of them can’t stand.
The Romney Campaign has been playing right into the president’s hands. Romney needs a plan to turn the tables on Obama, and turn some of his own perceived weaknesses into strengths while putting the president back on the defensive. This week I offer the Romulans a plan to do exactly that, with a battle plan I use every night on my show to advance my principles and that I have used to help numerous candidates and causes over the past few years.
I call it my 10 Commandments of Political Warfare.
1. Never trust Republicrats.
This week we’ve seen the same people who shoved Romney down our throats in the primary abandon him after his now infamous “47%” comments. That’s because many of these same people are more interested in pleasing the liberal media than they are obeying upholding and defending the Constitution. Up until this point the Romney Campaign has mirrored their perpetual gutlessness.
Sure, the way Romney said what he said at that fat cat donor meeting isn’t the way I would’ve put it, and he helped the president paint him as a divisive elite. Nevertheless, a general conversation about the out of control growth of the welfare state is one long overdue in a national election.
I’m not sure given his past support of TARP and Romneycare that Romney is the ideal candidate to have that conversation, but if nothing else this week should’ve taught Romney not to trust most of those he has entrusted his political fortunes to, but to trust his own instincts instead. For instance, Romney’s finest moment on the campaign trail was in Ohio after the president’s revealing “you didn’t build that” remarks. Romney was passionate, unscripted, and specific. That’s the Romney the American people need to see in the first debate and through the rest of the campaign, not the man Romney has allowed an establishment machine who has losing in its DNA to present him as.
2. Never attack what you’re not willing to kill.
From saying he wasn’t for “Reagan-Bush,” to being for homosexual scout masters and global warming, to working with Ted Kennedy on Romneycare, much of Romney’s political career has been spent cozying up to the very folks he’s now trying to defeat in this election. Yet for all of his attempts to find common ground with enemies of the Constitution, his opponents and their media accomplices have still labeled him with the very same clichés and ad hominem attacks they would pin on any true conservative.
Romney has earned no points for showing restraint, like originally standing for targeted tax cuts as opposed to a complete overhaul of a decrepit and corrupt tax system. If Romney thinks the president is a socialist, he should say so and explain why. If Romney thinks the president is corrupt with the likes of Solyndra or Fast & Furious, he should say so and explain why. If Romney thinks re-electing this president has the potential to close the door on American free market capitalism forevermore, he should say so and explain why. There is no buzz or sense of urgency about his campaign, but there is plenty of sense of urgency on the president’s side. His side is concerned they may lose the welfare state goose that laid the golden egg. Romney needs a similar sense of urgency, and setting your phasers on stun doesn’t generate that.
3. Never accept the premise of your opponent’s argument.
Most of the Republican Convention was spent being hyper defensive about the phony “war on women” meme of the Left. All the time accepting the phony premise of his opponents is time Romney didn’t use to fire up his base, or use the platform of the convention to articulate who he is and why he would offer something different. The one speaker who did the best job of that was Ann Romney, which is why her speech was given the highest marks.
Do you see the president defending himself against charges he’s really a Kenyan, Muslim, or Marxist? No, you don’t. He doesn’t accept the premise of attacks from his opponents he views to be baseless, and neither should Romney. When you do, you actually add validity to those attacks in the minds of voters, otherwise why would you feel the need to defend yourself?
4. Never surrender the moral high ground.
Recently Romney went on one of the Sunday morning talk shows and said he would essentially leave all of Obamacare in place except for the mandate. I can’t wait until that comes up in the debates. Obama’s going to ask why if Romney is for all of the other federal mandates “permitting access to their right to healthcare,” then why take away the provision that does the most to grant that “right?” What is Romney going to say, he thinks it is okay for the Feds to tell all parents they have to keep their kid on the health insurance until they’re 26, but not mandate coverage for every single mom working two part-time jobs that don’t offer health insurance?
Good luck with that.
If Obamacare is wrong, illegal, immoral, etc. then you have to attack it as such. Then again, that’s not an easy case to make for the guy that is essentially the architect of its predecessor. But when you surrender the moral high ground you just end up arguing your opponent’s point and not yours.
5. Reverse the premise of your opponent’s argument and use it against him.
With bravado, Romney should look the American people in the eye and say this:
“Yes, it’s true. I am rich. I am very successful. And you know how I got that way? By doing the exact opposite of what this president has done to this country for the last four years. By rewarding merit and not punishing success, by firing employees who weren’t doing their jobs, and eliminating failing companies that were a drain on those carrying their own weight. This is how I created all this wealth for myself and those who invested with me, and also created so many jobs in the process. This is the American Way. With all the failures we’ve seen from this administration both home and abroad, who has this president held accountable? What government program has he cut? Surely with $16 trillion in debt something isn’t performing as well as it should and could be eliminated? Can any of you afford to run your homes, small businesses, or non-profit charities in such a way? Listen, if you want to vote for feel-good failure, vote for him. If you want to vote for success and accountability, vote for me.”
6. Never, abandon your base (unless they are morally wrong).
Things you can’t do: the RNC rules committee fiasco, joining the liberal media pile-on Todd Akin, avoiding Chick-fil-A like the plague, watering down Paul Ryan’s principled pro-life position to a milquetoast “with exceptions” sell-out, and doing nothing to help the marriage vote in North Carolina (let alone acknowledging it). Romney’s base is motivated to vote against Obama, but it is definitely not motivated to vote for Romney.
Not that just voting for him is enough. Romney needs these people putting signs in their yards, pestering their friends and family members on Facebook, and talking to their neighbors about the need to get out and vote in this election. If you think you can win without a base motivated to vote for you, just ask Presidents Dole and McCain.
It’s almost too late to do what should’ve been done on this front months ago now, but one thing the Romney Campaign could do here is to cast this election as a clash of worldviews, with every single moral foundation in the country potentially at risk.
Of course, that would require Romney to clearly articulate defined core principles for longer than a news cycle, which apparently his incestuous batch of consultants aren’t too keen on.
7. Define your opponent before they define themselves & define yourself before your opponent defines you.
The Romney Campaign has done a good job of defining Obama’s failures, but by not turning Romney’s success into a strength they have allowed Obama to define Romney as well. Romney needs to own who he is and be comfortable in his own skin. Not the guy that ran to the left of Ted Kennedy in 1994, as a social liberal for governor of Massachusetts in 2002, and as the heir to the Reagan Coalition in 2008. Will the real Mitt Romney please stand up? Where is the man with the family that looks like an American Gothic painting? Stop trying to make yourself seem hip or cool to people that will never vote for you by wasting your time with Kelly Ripa or “The View.” Know who your potential audience of voters are, and make yourself transparent and accessible to them.
8. Always make your opponent defend their record and/or their belief system.
The only way Romney can do this one is by providing the American people a clear, concise, and specific plan for turning the economy around that includes benchmarks for accountability/success. Without such a plan, this will continue to be a referendum on Romney and not Obama.
9. Stay on message.
For a guy who told us in the primary he couldn’t sign any pro-life pledges because it was “all about the economy and jobs” he’s certainly gotten off that message quite often in the general. Come up with the sort of plan I described in the previous point, and pound that home along with “are you better off than you were four years ago” for the final seven weeks of the campaign.
10. Play offense.
Romney’s base is fracturing because they sense he’s losing and on the defensive. Playing offense keeps your base engaged, united, and fired up while also demoralizing the base of your opponent. Again, get comfortable in your own skin, get a simple and definable plan, and go on offense against Obama.