Thursday, May 31, 2012

Lessons From The 2012 Republican Primary

Last Tuesday, Mitt Romney won the Kentucky and the Arkansas Primary and with tonight's victory in the Texas primary, Mitt now has more than the 1,144 delegates needed to be the official Republican nominee to take on Barack Obama: 
Now that Mitt Romney is the Republican nominee, the 2012 primary is officially over. Lets look back at some of the important lessons we've learned from the 2012 Republican Primary: 
1. Organization matters
I think this is the fundamental principle of campaigning. Organization is essential and crucial to a good and victorious campaign. Mitt Romney focused creating organization early in his campaign by building the right "core" campaign team while working on developing a strong campaign teams at the state level. Mitt Romney runs a very tight and disciplined organization and he makes sure that things are streamlined and saves the campaign money.    
2. Fundraise early and often
Having a strong campaign organization at the top level and state to state level is, in my opinion,  the most important part in becoming a winning candidate. If you don't have a good organization, nothing else you do will matter, even if you're backed up by a solid campaign war chest. 
The second most important part in creating a winning election team is fundraising. Its not the money that matters but its the timing and frequency. The rule is that fundraising should begin as early as possible and done frequently as possible. Mitt Romney was very aggressive in raising money for his campaign and he started on it pretty early in the campaign as demonstrated in his well publicized Las Vegas fundraising event in which he raised $10 million in a single day back in May of 2011.Since that time, Mitt Romney has continued to perform well each quarter in raising money for his campaign.
3. Messaging Is Important
A third important aspect of running a successful campaign is messaging. In fact, the heartbeat of a campaign is its simple, focused and crisp message. Obama's message in the 2008 election was hope and change which was quite effective but Obama is now struggling with coming up with a strong simple message to run on in 2012.
But in terms of the 2012 GOP primary, some candidates had good campaign messages and others didn't. Herman Cain's 9-9-9 plan was a hit while I think Rick Perry couldn't come up with a coherent (no pun intended) campaign theme. Even more central to having a good campaign message is the ability to articulate it well and Rick Perry struggled at that.
Here's what one GOP operative had to say about the importance of managing your campaign message and how it can sink your campaign:
Republican operative Todd Harris says it’s important – and increasing difficulty – for a campaign to control its message with the rise of super PACs, outside groups, tabloid political journalism and instant news cycles
“About the only thing you can control is what comes out of the candidate’s mouth,” Harris says. “Except when you can’t.”
3. Follow Through With Your Attacks
Many candidates didn't accept responsibility for their attacks on certain candidates. Tim Pawlenty attacked Mitt Romney's Massachusetts health care plan by calling it ObamneyCare and when called to repeat that attack during the debates, he couldn't muster the strength to repeat it to Mitt's face. Rick Santorum had the same problem in which he attacked Mitt and when given the opportunity to repeat the attack on Romney, he just couldn't repeat it.
On a closely related matter, some candidates had no problem going after other candidates in a debate but they botched their attacks badly. Rick Perry comes to mind. Had Rick Perry set up the attack right, he would have been very effective against Mitt Romney. But he botched that attack so badly that he never really recovered. To make matters even worse, Rick Perry made another campaign gaffe and it was all over for Rick. 
If a candidate can't be aggressive with a fellow competitor, people will assume that he won't be able to stand up to opposing party candidate. Voters will also wonder if the candidate will have the strength to confront Congress or other nations or will he back down from a fight. Additionally, voters want the candidates to have the ability to execute their attacks properly since if the candidate actually becomes President, he will still have to engage in verbal jiujitsu to promote his agenda and if he can't articulate himself or his policies, there's no point in having him in office.
4. Vetting Matters
Some candidates didn't do a good job vetting themselves before running in 2012. Candidates like to promote the good parts of themselves and what their vision is for America. Candidates also like to do opposition research on their competitors.  Smart candidates will conduct opposition research on themselves before they run. Herman Cain found out the hard way when news reports began to surface of his infidelities with other women.
5. Focus, Focus, Focus
Mitt Romney won the 2012 Republican primaries because he remained laser focused the issue of our nation's economy and kept his attacks on Obama while other candidates focused on other issues and went after Mitt. Mitt Romney is just as focused in the general election as he was in the primary election. Obama keeps trying to distract him and the American voters on other issues but Mitt keeps the public's attention on Obama and his economic record. 
6. Debates Do Matter:
As much as people complain about the large number of debates presidential candidates do, they're still an important and essential part of the election process. Mitt Romney consistently did well in the debates while the other candidates had a great night at one debate and then didn't do well in another.  Jon Huntsman was a horrible debater who rambled on, sometimes incoherently, about issues that weren't really important to the American voter. Rick Santorum whined throughout his debates.
In my observation, Mitt Romney was able to obtain the Republican nomination because he followed the fundamentals of political campaigning better than anyone else. Moreover, he was able to apply the fundamentals in new and creative ways that allowed him to beat his competitors. Finally, we got a glimpse of how aggressive Mitt Romney can be with others but we didn't see the full depth of how combative Mitt Romney can be until we started to see him take on Obama. 
Its clear that Republicans have underestimated Mitt Romney and are starting to appreciate good Mitt Romney is at political jiu jitsu. Mitt is a clever, shrewed and smart and very aggressive and people are starting to see it as Romney goes after Obama. People all across the country are starting to realize that Mitt Romney can beat Obama. And he will. 

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