Sunday, February 17, 2013

GOP: It will take more than rebranding to win

Tiger can’t change its stripes, a leopard can’t change its spots, if it looks like a duck and swims like a duck…  In addition to be animal-related idioms, they also relate to the GOP’s current predicament.

The GOP is looking to rebrand itself after  doing the math from the November election.  While Republicans are not known for their math skills, some pollsters and strategists recognized that the party of angry white guys, business special interests, and the 1% was in danger of irrelevance in the face changing demographics.   Now I am no marketing expert, but I am aware of the 4-Ps of Product, Place, Price and Promotion which dovetails into my simpler analysis of: Product, Message, and Messenger.  The PPM model may actually be more applicable to the GOP’s problem and opportunity.

Let’s start with the product.  What is the GOP offering and what does it stand for?  Bobby Jindal says that the GOP needs to stop being the stupid party which referenced the Todd Akin ‘legitimate rape’ comment as well as comments from Joe Walsh, Richard Mourdock, Allen West, and pretty much just about everything said during the Republican Primary Debates.  And while some in the party want to distance themselves from the Tea Party, but that won’t be so easy.  Brigitte Nacos, a political science professor at Columbia University says “The fact of the matter is when you look at the basic agenda of the Republican ticket, it’s pretty much what the Tea Party likes.”  Yes the GOP has been co-opted by the very insurrection that led the GOP back to House control in 2010.  Frankenstein’s monster.

The problem the GOP has is the Tea Party Caucus is not a monolithic entity.  It contains social conservatives, deficit hawks, defense hawks, isolationists, and opportunists.  It also has strong social media backing and following Speaker Boehner’s purging of four key Tea Party members, the war within the GOP was underway.  Most recently Karl Rove is mobilizing his political action committee to make sure weak Tea Party candidates do not threaten establishment Republicans.  Yes the battle on the right is far from over.

But what will be the message as we approach the 2014 mid-term and 2016 presidential elections?  If the social conservatives insist on opposing social progress and attacking contraception, woman’s healthcare, and minorities the GOP’s fall will continue.  If the party rallies around new leader such as Marco Rubio, Paul Ryan, Chris Christie, Susanna Martinez, or others it is possible that a more centrist approach could develop.  Unfortunately for the GOP, it seems unable to get on message and when the primary season starts in two short years I see a repeat of the 2012 tack to the right.

Now the GOP seems to be putting stock in this collection of new emerging stars. But, the GOP doesn’t have a monopoly on rising stars.  For every Marco Rubio there is a Julian Castro, for every Chris Christie there is a Martin O’Malley or Andrew Cuomo, for every Ted Cruz and Paul Ryan, there is a Cory Booker, Gavin Newsom, and Elizabeth Warren.  Yes both sides will be promoting new fresh faces in 2016 and watching the GOP trying so hard to promote Rubio at this early stage could lead to over exposure and scrutiny.  Then again, the GOP also could roll out Bachmann, Rand and Ron Paul, Santorum, Gingrich and John Schnatter (continuing the tradition of Conservative CEO’s of shitty pizza companies) and in the process could a moderate like Christie refrain from getting pulled to the right?

So unless the GOP can come up with a new message that isn’t a repackage of the tired privatization, tax cuts, anti-social programs, anti-labor, state’s rights amalgam it is unlikely to make significant headway in reclaiming the White House without a legitimate messenger who can expand the base beyond the limited 2012 coalition.  Then again in politics, the right messenger at the right time can still win with an inferior product. 

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