From time to time, it’s interesting to see what Karl Rove has to say. After all, he’s been at this game a very long time with a long track record. He has an article in the Wall Street Journal today titled What the GOP Can Learn From Losing. Let’s see what we can learn.
Mr. Rove summed up the numbers nicely and they’re worth reviewing just to keep things in context.
[Rick Saccone] lost the18th Congressional District by 627 votes out of 228,378 cast in a district with 70,000 more registered Democrats than Republicans. On the other hand, Donald Trump carried the district by 20 points, and the Republican congressman who resigned last year after a sex scandal was unopposed in his last two elections. [Mr. Saccone] raised just $917,000 to Mr. Lamb’s $3.9 million.
Mr. Rove characterized Saccone’s campaign as “a vacuous and stale race.”
So what can be learned? In reading Mr. Rove’s article, what I found interesting was that while I believe he recognizes the core problem, he surrounds it with the normal sorts of campaign mumbo jumbo that sounds good on the surface but doesn’t even make a good meme.
He came close to the real core issue: The Republican Party is not unified behind the President and candidates are trying to go it alone.
Candidate quality will matter more than usual this year, especially in open contests or races where a GOP challenger is taking on a Democratic incumbent. Republican primary voters have a special responsibility: This is no time to reward old warhorses because it’s their turn, or to engage in flights of fancy by picking fringe figures. If Republicans want to keep their congressional majorities, they must pick the best candidates, give generously and often, and commit significant personal time and energy.
So the problem, Mr. Rove, is that the Republican Party is completely unable to “pick the best candidates.” The “old warhorses” aren’t speaking the language of voters of today and worse, in my view, President Trump is seen as a fringe figure. That means you’re looking for someone who basically is able to say “I think the President has a few good ideas but I believe we should stick with more traditional Republican issues.” I think what you get is Warhouse Lite.
Republican candidates must drive home their own distinctive messages. Running as Trump 2.0 like Mr. Saccone did won’t work unless your opponent is Hillary 2.0. Voters must be shown—in tangible terms—why electing a Republican is better for their family and country. Otherwise, GOP-leaning voters will stay home or defect.
Republican candidates must drive home their own distinctive messages. I’m sorry, Mr. Rove but I don’t get it. Mr. Lamb didn’t come up with his own distinctive message. In fact, he co-opted some of President Trump’s along with traditional Democrat messages.
President Trump has shown Republicans the way forward with messaging that works. You can watch any of his rallies and see each and every one of them laid out and explained. As a bonus, he goes on to describe (over and over and over and over again) how they’re working.
We don’t need Republican candidates to drive home their own distinctive messages — we need Republican candidates who can take each of the President’s messages and present them in their own unique manner to their constituents showing how these Republican ideas makes it better for their family, their community, and their country.
Speaking of the president: He riles up the opposition more than he energizes his side.
There’s some obvious truth here although I’d say the opposition is about as riled as they can get.
Team Trump should deploy the president to raise money and win primaries for electable candidates. But he should avoid rallies in the campaign’s closing months. Mr. Trump drowns out a candidate’s message and makes the news all about whatever wild line he slings into the ether.
Here’s the thing, Mr. Rove. He shouldn’t need to parachute in to try to rescue failing candidates which goes all the way back to the Party not unifying under the President’s leadership and messaging.
I’m pretty sure that the President has plenty of things on his plate to deal with rather than trying to carry the entire Republican Party on his shoulders.
What I’m waiting for, Mr. Rove, is for someone in the Republican Party leadership to step up and say “we got this Mr. President. You’ve given us the blueprint for winning and we’ll make sure every one of our soldiers in this fight is working in lockstep to your vision for Making America Great Again.”