In a race between Newt and Mitt, for me the issue is not so much which man is more conservative but which man is more representative of the status quo and the establishment and which one is more representative of reform and the anti-establishment sentiments that gave birth to a whole movement that was based in part on a an extraordinary anti-establishment sentiment. Of the two, given that criteria, Newt wins hands down. Which is why I have become so utterly disappointed in Newt Gingrich’s campaign.
While I understand how much pride Newt takes in running an untradition campaign that does not focus on fundraising and consultant rich decision making that forces one to produce poll driven policy positions, I am incredibly frustrated by Newt’s unwillingness to accept the fact that any effective campaign requires a degree of proper planning and strategizing. It does not necessarily have to be traditional planning and strategizing but it has to be at least a semi coordinated effort that covers some of the most basic aspects of the purpose behind any campaign. One such purpose is that of delivering a message.
What is Newt’s message?
Well he has had quite a few and most all of them have been good. But when asked that question, voters should not have to decide what a candidate’s message is. They should clearly know one carefully crafted message that is clear and immediately resonates. Unfortunately, Newt’s message has not been clear. For that to happen, Gingrich needs to strike a theme or a string of theme’s that easily tie together to form one message. A smart campaign will use themes that creates a message which not only advance the candidate’s cause, but also takes the sting out of their rivals attacks. In Newt’s case a perfect string of theme’s that create just the right message for him would consist of his being a reform minded, anti-establishment, leader.
Let’s look at each of these areas individually:
As Speaker of the House, Newt established himself as a true leader and America is yearning for one that can take them in the right direction. Do they want the type of leader who can create a Contract With America that led America in to a Republican revolution that changed the way Congress does business and led to some of the most conservative reforms in generations while working with Democrats? Or do they want the type of leadership that worked with Democrats to create such things as RomneyCare and ObamaCare?
That is a theme not only works for Newt, it works against Mitt Romney?
Here again, one can turn one of Romney’s weaknesses in to a Gingrich strength.
Do we we want the type of Gingrich reforms which led to the greatest reform of the last 30 years…..welfare reform, or do they want the type of Romney reforms which created Romney and Obama style government-centric healthcare?
This theme is probably the most fertile for Gingrich.
It allows him to remind people that when Newt became Speaker, he reformed the House and made many changes that forced its members to live by the same rules they create for others. The scandal which saw members of Congress involved The House banking scandal when it was revealed that the United States House of Representatives allowed members to overdraw their House checking accounts without any penalties, prompted Newt to enforce rules that made it harder for legislators to live above the law.
But there is much more to point to when it comes to Gingrich’s proven record of reform. Some of the most dramatic include:
- The Fiscal Responsibility Act
- The Taking Back Our Streets Act
- The Personal Responsibility Act
- The American Dream Restoration Act
- The National Security Restoration Act
- The “Common Sense” Legal Reform Act
- The Job Creation Act
- The Wage Enhancement Act
- The Citizen Legislature Act
All of these major changes offer Newt a wealth of issues to introduce in to the election and provide all the evidence people need to establish just how reform driven he is and each one of them strike chords among the electorate that are just as important and topical today as they were yesterday and will be tomorrow.
The Anti-Establishment Candidate;
In this anti-establishment, TEA movement environment, the status quo is out and the defenders of the status quo are the enemy. People do not trust the establishment of either Party. They believe that each Party has betrayed the ideologies they represent and have forgotten that the people are in charge in government and not the government which is in charge of the people. At this point in time, it seems that the people are having to answer to government, far more than government does to the people.
Meanwhile scores of establishment Governors, Senators, Congressman are coming out and endorsing Mitt Romney. They are making it clear that the Mitt Romney is the establishment candidate………the defender of the status quo. Meanwhile those members of the establishment are attacking Newt. From Bob Dole on down, the establishment has soundly rejected Newt and if that is not enough to convince anti-establishment voters that Newt is one of them, than nothing is.
Add to that Newt’s willingness to stray from Party orthodoxy on occasion, and his instinctual desire to question traditional political thinking and approaches to problems and what you have is a candidate who represents anything but the status quo.
Combined together, all three of these qualities could provide Gingrich with the keys to the Republican presidential nomination. In many cases, despite poor messaging by Gingrich’s campaign, they have already been responsible for what success Gingrich has had. But until and unless he can run a campaign that reinforces these themes with clear, consistent messages, the opportunity to exploit them will be lost. And right now, Newt is losing.
In his desire to be unconventional, Newt is unwilling to be scripted. And while there is a degree of political attractiveness to that, it also makes it impossible for Newt to stay on message and drive it home and the result is sometimes disastrous.
It is what led to his hurting himself a few weeks ago when he offended supporters of capitalism by going to far with an improper assault on Mitt Romney for his work as a venture capitalist. It is also what led to Newt’s most recent blunder, claiming that he could not focus because the audience in the most recent debate was a distraction.
That off-the-cuff remark was so wrong on so many levels that it could very well cost him the winner-take-all, victory in Florida’s Primary.
That statement allowed Mitt Romney to undermine Newt by him seem week and it also allowed Romney to undermine Newt’s greatest strength, his superb debating skills.
Such results are bound to happen when a candidate is unwilling to stay on message and when they fail to settle upon a winning theme that they can build on.
Whatever the result in Florida, if Newt intends to remain in this contest to win, he better get his act together and admit to himself that he needs a competent organization that coordinates his ground game, and does things such as spearhead an aggressive absentee ballot operation in key states, and he must succumb to the fact that if he wants to win, he needs to focus on developing a winning strategy.
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