What do the republicans need to do? 

After being on the receiving end of the shutout known as the 2008 elections, Republicans are clearly a party in exile. They have been removed from all pre-eminent places of power. Liberals and Democrats are running rampant through DC celebrating their tsunami of a campaign, in some respects deservingly so. So now seems to be the best time to ask the question – where do we go from here?

Leadership: We now have had 2 presidents from the boomer generation take office. J-Mac is officially the last of a generation for the Republican leadership. From this point on, the party needs to transition the mantle of standard bearers (and message crafters) to a much younger generation. However you want to knock Gov. Palin, the one thing she did was shift the age level of the Republican leadership to look younger and speak to not only a new generation, but a stage of life that was far different from empty-nester retirement age images that McCain clearly portrayed. There needs to be a new crop of leaders to pick up and carry the torch. Romney, Palin, Sanford, Jindhal are all possibilities; I’m sure there are more. Now is the time to start generating that new wave of leaders. Bottom line: Clean house and get with fresh blood who truly practice what they preach.

Vision: The Republican party is the party of ideas. Anyone can be a democrat; you have to choose to become Republican because it involves a conscious commitment to live by a set of ideals. To be a Rep means you buy into some guiding principles on markets, society, even life itself. Equal opportunities for all, safety and protection, and working hard for your rewards have been hallmark convictions. They need to be re-imagined and communicated for a new generation; not a different content message, but the same truths spoken in a new and fresh way to a new group of people. Bottom Line: Dream, baby, dream of what the future of the country could look like.

Message discipline: After 4 years of the Oba-wan, there will be plenty of negative performance issues to communicate; pick the key spots and target them until it leaks into the national psyche and language. But be positive with a better future; don’t just attack away. Show the better road. People are not going to be compelled by negativity. There can be a better future, and we are the ones to highlight and illustrate it. Bottom Line: Paint the picture clearly and compellingly; diamond in the rough kind of stuff.

Closed primaries: Kick out these ridiculous open primaries where Dems get to elect a left-leaning lib in the Rep party to carry the banner. That has to be the dumbest idea I’ve ever heard. If you’re not aligned with a party, too bad. Wait till November. If you can’t make up your mind, then sit it out till the whole country together makes the choice on 11/4. To bring Indies into the mix messes things up. Indies are like the girls in college who’d flirt with me all day, then stiff arm me when I made a move. They’re capricious and hard to read, and frankly not worth pursuing because they’re more into themselves than anyone else. Leave them for the general campaign; get your own troops in order during the primaries. It could have been a whole different game last winter had the Indies not tampered with the process with McCain in NH. Could it have been Romney? Hmm…. Bottom Line: Close the doors and duke it out within the ranks.

Ground game: It’s simple – football championships, invasions, and elections are all won when the ground game is in motion. No amount of leaflets (or bombs) dropped from the skies or airwaves are going to conquer a territory; you do it with boots on the ground. The republicans need to go back to the drawing board and examine each state and each county (and even township municipality) and determine where to roll up the sleeves and start the ground game. Dem strategist Rohm Emanuel knows this strategy: he copied it from Karl Rove. But it needs more than a few surgical laser strikes on a place (the “swarm” strategy of Rumsfeld); there needs to be a concentration of forces to move in your direction and keep sentiment intact (think surge, but a bit more slowly). Hey, we’re gonna have plenty of time over the next 2-4 years. Bottom Line: Roll up the sleeves, kiss some babies, shake some hands, and offer to help out wherever possible; you gotta earn it.

There is a historical precedent to all of this from the unlikeliest of people: Richard Nixon. In 1960, after serving 2 terms as VP, Nixon lost a nail-biter to JFK. But that’s not the worst. He then lost badly in the CA governor election in ‘62, where he declared at the end he’s retiring after uttering the famous phrase to the media, “You won’t have Richard Nixon to kick around anymore”. But that’s not the worst. In ‘64, Goldwater is hammered by the Democrats. At that point, the mainstream discussion was whether conservatism was officially DOA. Nixon begins campaigning on behalf of congressional candidates around the country to help out. Nixon keeps plugging away helping locals win seats. Then lo and behold, he wins the primary over Reagan & Rockefeller in ’68. Then he wins another close election to the presidency in 68, and by 1972, wins in a landslide that the Oba-wan could only dream of. There’s a man who went from loser to exile to victor. 

Character issues on the man aside, Nixon had the right strategy. Begin local, then go global. Build up from the ground floor. And mean business; don’t get sidetracked with compromising candidates. If the guy/gal has scandal or loss written all over them – dump them. It’s not worth the weight of their baggage. Find the best leaders and winners and build them up to a place of victory.

This is the long road back from exile, and there are not shortcuts to get you there faster.