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“Advice to the Romney Campaign: Time for Something Old (Policy Speeches); Something New (Twitter)” By Clark S. Judge

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The Monday column from Clark Judge:

Advice to the Romney Campaign: Time for Something Old (Policy Speeches); Something New (Twitter)
By Clark S. Judge: managing director, White House Writers Group, Inc.; chairman, Pacific Research Institute

A tide of opinion is rising inside Republican ranks.

In last week’s column, I said that Mitt Romney needed at least two policy speeches – one on the economy and spending, the other on foreign policy. Pull his positions together. Put them in the context of the nation and the times.

For example, in a speech devoted to the economy, layout the why of the economic crisis, its roots in Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac and the crony capitalism of Barney Frank and Chris Dodd. Explain that the way out of the crisis is returning to policies that recognize the centrality to new business creation and global trade to our economic growth. That means lower taxes, light-handed and predictable regulation, more open trade deals, stable monetary policy, less federal spending, reduced national debt and getting control of entitlements.

One role of a political leader is to explain the nation and the times to the nation. Look at the speeches of Ronald Reagan, Franklin Roosevelt, Abraham Lincoln. As a candidate, each undertook this task. Romney has not, at least not sufficiently. He needs to, I said. And he needs to do it on national television, speaking to the camera, with a cross network and news channels buy.

Two days after the column posted, I was in a small group talking to a top GOP senator. Without prompting, he expressed the same view: the need for Romney to deliver major policy speeches, laying out his positions, putting them in context of time and circumstance.

A day after that I was talking to a former Reagan speechwriting colleague – Hoover Institution fellow Peter Robinson, author of the “Mr. Gorbochev, tear down this wall” address. I reported to him on what the senator had said. Peter told me that he had just taped a podcast (it is the best political/cultural podcast I’ve found on the web) in which he had made exactly the same point.

I have been told that former George W. Bush White House Press Secretary Dana Perino has expressed the same view on Fox.

My point is that unprompted, uncoordinated, entirely independent of one another, the same call for coherence – for full speeches pulling together his positions in the form of an argument – has been going out to Mitt Romney from serious Republicans in media, political circles, and the hall of Congress.

Assuming the pace picks up and the GOP nominee’s campaign responds, here is some additional advice for a Romney speech strategy.

In presidential campaigns, major speeches must not just be given. They must be merchandized. Before and after delivery, aides and experts must sell their importance, their implications and their truth to the media.

To take an historical example, during the 1860 presidential campaign, Abraham Lincoln personally delivered the text of his Copper Union address, the major policy address of his race, to a major New York newspaper hours before he delivered it. The paper ran the full text the next morning, ensuring that Lincoln got exactly the coverage he wanted.

In recent campaigns, the post-debate spin room has taken on a similar role in shaping coverage – with campaign aides and advisors from various camps competing to give the cameras and the reporters their side’s interpretation of what was said.

This year, during Congressman Paul Ryan’s address accepting the GOP nomination for vice president, a new variation emerged: the tweet. Remember how, half way through the address, a senior Democratic operative tweeted an accusation that Ryan was lying? The media picked it up and was off and running, probably with follow-up lines on different parts of the address from Team Obama.

It didn’t matter that every word of Ryan’s speech was true. Twitter is the new spin room. Team Romney needs to learn and adjust.

During each upcoming debate and major speech, they need to be tweeting links to sources and quotes from authorities as soon as their man makes key points.

They also need to have challenges prepared to the president’s key points – again providing links to clarifying facts and quotes. Sounds hard? It shouldn’t. This White House is the new Burger King: home of the Whopper – and they’ve been serving the same sloppy sandwich all year.

Finally they need to pick up the other side’s Twitter feeds, the same ones that reporters are getting, and have someone sharp and authoritative challenging them in real time.

In the new media environment, even relying on the spin room of recent years means a campaign will be slow out of the blocks. Going forward, the Romney organization needs to act accordingly.


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