Whatever he says and however it is received, Romney set up the speech well, telling the MSM and new media alike that this would be a “key address,” and thus framing the news cycle for Thursday through the weekend on the GOP side.
This demonstrates considerably more communications savvy than the House GOP has been demonstrating in the early months of its return to the majority,as Paul Ryan admitted on Fox yesterday.
“”I wouldn’t say we’re losing the communications battle,” Ryan stated with regard to the House budget, “but we have a great communications challenge.”
That challenge is made greater by the infrequency with which any of the big seven –the Speaker, House GOP Leader Cantor, Whip Kevin McCarthy, and the chairmen of the big four of Approps, Budget, Energy and Commerce and Ways and Means (Rogers, Ryan, Upton and Camp)– engage the media, especially the conservative media. Ryan and McCarthy work the issues more than the rest, but the others are almost disdainful of the base that elected them.
You cannot move the needle if you don’t win a series of news cycles and you cannot win news cycles with sound bytes and clips of speeches. That’s why candidates campaign relentlessly for the months leading up to a vote. That’s why authors do exhausting, mind-numbing book tours. It is why Dick Van Dyke, at 85, is out working the circuit selling his book. (He’ll be on tomorrow’s show.)
To sell anything, but especially complex ideas, requires repetition and enthusiasm. Governor Romney is setting up a big speech on one of his big issues, and will have to follow it with a hundred speeches and Q-and-As between now and Iowa and New Hampshire, which is 10 months away if he wants to sell his candidacy to GOP voters.
It has been seven months since the House GOP won its mandate. How much selling of its agenda have you seen? When did you last see John Boehner on Sean Hannity’s show or heard Eric Cantor on with Mark Levin or Michael Medved? You will hear Paul Ryan on my show today because Ryan gets it, and works the issue again and again and again.
Here’s a suggestion for the Speaker. If he gave even a two minute speech in which he mentioned the Powerline Prize as exactly the sort of thing this country needs, he would publicize a vehicle for the ideas that the GOP needs to sell, thus using his office to empower the idea team of the vast new media.
That’s a single, two minute investment that would pay enormous dividends by prompting hundreds if not thousands of entries in a competition designed to illuminate the enormity of the fiscal crisis, each one of which engages teams of people and those they influence in the consideration of the issues and ideas that the Speaker is trying to sell. There are scores of other such “force multipliers” out there. Where in the world is the creative team?
Perhaps they are all on the presidential campaigns, but if so, the House GOP could use a loaner program for a while.
One of the most interesting things to come out of my three lengthy interviews with former Secretary of Donald Rumsfeld was his candid and complete admission that the Bush Administration simply botched its domestic communication strategy on the war. Everyone was to busy to pay attention to messaging the home front. Rummy gave himself a D- and some might think that was generous.
The House GOP doesn’t want to be looking back five years from now wondering what went wrong in 2011 and 2012. It can sell the country on its agenda, but it has to work and work and work at it. “The perfectly executed half charge up a hill” will lead to a political disaster, and has already eroded the confidence of the GOP base and Tea Party activists. A second rout from the debt negotiation tables that occurs after a news blackout will finish the job of destroying that confidence.