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Rules for Republicans

Use Obama’s playbook against him.

Jan 2, 2012, Vol. 17, No. 16 • By JEFF BERGNER and LISA SPILLER
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Rule 8: Run a good ground game. Nothing beats your or your surrogates’ direct contact with the voters. Take a page from Obama campaign manager David Plouffe’s 2008 playbook: Do not treat your staff and volunteers as pawns, but as valued customers and colleagues. Provide them with tangible and intangible rewards throughout the campaign. This is the path to creating an army of committed volunteers, a legion of Internet supporters, and, by the way, vastly expanded Internet fundraising.

Rule 9: Consider someone like Marco Rubio as your running mate. You need to bring energy and freshness to your campaign. Choosing Sarah Palin was not wrong in 2008; letting her twist in the wind in the face of media attacks was. A positive, Reaganesque running mate like Marco Rubio will help you. The fact that he is Hispanic will help even more. And the fact that he is from Florida makes choosing him a trifecta. A bit of the “cool factor” will be a big help, especially with younger voters who will not be as monolithically for Obama the second time around. Choose someone obviously fit to succeed you as president if necessary, and neither the Obama campaign nor the press will get traction in suggesting otherwise.

Rule 10: Go all in. The vast majority of Americans believe the country is on the wrong track. A sizable number believe the country’s very future is at stake in this election. Act like it. Do not pull your punches, especially in a vain and benighted effort to curry favor with the media. The days of neutral media, if they ever existed, are over. The media are partisan, as in the early days of the republic; they have chosen sides. You must​—​or at least your campaign and surrogates must​—​take on Barack Obama directly. When you are criticized for doing so, know that you are having an effect. Double down on it. Your media critics are not your friends​—​they are on the other team. Be absolutely insensitive, even impervious, to any and all media criticism. Your market is the electorate, not the media. And one more thought: The most devastatingly effective form of negative campaigning is ridicule. This is liberalism’s tool against Republicans, and the left hates it when it is turned against them. That’s why the Paris Hilton “celeb” video was the most effective ad of the McCain campaign. Ridicule exposes how joyless, humorless, and brittle is today’s political left.

Lisa Spiller, a professor of marketing in the business school of Christopher Newport University, and Jeff Bergner are authors of Branding the Candidate (Praeger). 

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