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Morning Jay: Previewing the GOP's 2012 Message

6:00 AM, Nov 18, 2011 • By JAY COST
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3. The president’s policies have made the deficit worse. Do not underestimate the shock value of a $15 trillion dollar deficit. It will provoke a visceral reaction among independent voters, one that the GOP will exploit for maximum effect.

As for the themes, I count four big ones. 

A. The GOP will use Obama’s own words against him. For somebody who rose to national prominence because of his speaking abilities, this president sure is gaffe prone. And there are plenty of statements that Obama has made on the record over the years that the GOP will be able to juxtapose against his own policies. Remember these?

            -You don’t raise taxes in a recession.

            -If I can’t fix the economy in three years, I’ll be a one-term president.

            -America has gone soft.

            -If you like your health insurance, you can keep it.

            -This (in)famous chart.

Again, just like Obama’s policies, there is a seemingly endless supply of these…ahem…unfortunate clips.

B. The GOP will emphasize pragmatism. This is not going to be a Goldwater-esque campaign that rails against creeping socialism. Instead, watch for the GOP to mimic Ronald Reagan, focusing on the most personal question: Are you better off now than you were four years ago? Cultural issues will accordingly be placed in the background as the party tries to build the broadest coalition it can.

C. The GOP will be vague. This one is a no brainer. FDR’s 1932 campaign was relatively light on the specifics (check out his 1932 nomination address for an example). And why not? Getting specific was bound to alienate voters who were already disposed against Herbert Hoover. Similarly, the GOP nominee will offer the vaguest possible plan that he can get away with. Democrats will complain, of course, but again, call it karma: Obama blasted the individual mandate in the 2008 campaign, then turned around and made it the centerpiece of his health care reform.

D. The GOP message will be focus grouped to death. Republican pollsters are going to pinpoint the most “gettable” voters, and the media mavens will craft a strategy around their focus groups. Again, Democrats will complain, but have you noticed that the phrase “tax increase” has been dropped from the lexicon, and in its place you have “revenue adjustments”? That buzzword was cooked up in some DNC focus group somewhere, I can assure you! Similarly, the GOP will test different ways to deliver this strategy to the most gettable voters for maximum effect.


Will all of this work? I think so – if the party picks the right nominee, and that person executes it well. I haven’t seen such a powerful GOP argument since 1988. Really, the script writes itself.

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