The only constant in this season’s GOP presidential primary has been change. Some good, some not so good. Having worked for three US presidents and two Texas governors, the one thing I can say with certainty, is more change will happen leading up to the party’s national convention later this year. But I have to tell you, I continue to be highly concerned with the machinations in the current contest, and the seeming inability of ANY candidate to nail a vision and supporting messages that inspire and engage the electorate with any degree of passion and excitement. The shifting frontrunner mantle, fickle polls and primary/caucus surprises tend to bear this out.
I keep telling myself that I am being alarmist in my concerns — attack ads from Republicans against Republicans, gaffes that entrench the stereotype that Republicans are out of touch with everyday Americans, morphing positions on issues that pander to the far right and may come back to haunt them with independents in the general election, the list goes on.
While ever so slightly, economic numbers are trending in Obama’s favor. Things have been SO bad under Obama, even the slightest uptick gets amplified to more than it really is, with the mainstream media carrying Obama’s water, trumpeting the triumphant improvement. But I have to tell you, from a public relations perspective (my true area of expertise) Republicans across the board continue to muff it — in the presidential race and in Congress. From a PR messaging perspective, Obama and the Democrats are successfully outmaneuvering our GOP presidential contenders and Congressional leaders at every turn. How the hell does an Obama become the champion of middle class tax cuts? Or for that matter of tax cuts of any kind? That is traditionally a Republican core issue, and we have ceded it to him. You have to work REALLY HARD to screw that one up.
Meanwhile, our GOP presidential hopefuls are playing the game of a circular firing squad, and when they run out of ammunition, they take out their swords and try .taking each other out with a game of death by a thousand cuts. Meanwhile, Obama, despite himself, looks presidential each day telling the American people how many great things he has done, and lecturing Congress like some stern parent lecturing a child to get their job done.
The side-show of the GOP primary antics and drama has provided Obama a clear pathway to control the positive messaging on the issues of the day, while our guys carp at each other about who is more “severely conservative.” As a public relations expert, I can tell you that, at this point, I truly do feel as if I am watching a GOP train wreck in slow motion. Some of my contemporaries have tried to reassure me that, once we have an actual nominee, all this malarkey will fade away, and the substance and tenor of the debate will change, and the focus will become Obama and his undeniable record of mediocrity if not outright failure. Perhaps.
But I can tell you this, Republicans and Independents will have to rally, and rally hard to defeat this incumbent president. He is slick, he is well-funded, he is well-organized and again will have the mainstream media to carry his message to the masses. For my part, I am hopeful the GOP smoke will clear sooner, rather than later — that we can unify, engage and rise to the occasion. Irrespective, I remain highly concerned at this point. Is Santorum “presidential?” Not sure. Is Romney imploding? Possibly. Is Gingrich done? I think he may be. Is Paul relevant? Only for pooling the few delegates he gains behind the nominee. In any event, I am hoping some clarity reveals itself soon, and that whoever the nominee is, he will be viable at the end of the melee. The ultimate goal is simple…winning in November. At this writing, we are winning very little — in the PR battle nor in the hearts and minds of the electorate. This must change, and soon.