by Ron Nehring
Internal elections offer the members and leaders of political parties to refresh and refine their leadership at the onset of a new election cycle. There is a reason many state parties choose their leadership soon after the general election – leaders are put in place to move the party forward in a new cycle.
As the performance of party leadership is reviewed, some commentators and self-styled analysts get it wrong — mixing up what party leaders can control and influence with what they can’t. The result can be incorrect analysis and bad recommendations.
Having served as a party chairman for more than a decade – six years as leader of the Republican Party in San Diego and four as Chairman of the state GOP – I’m acutely aware of what a chairman controls, versus the external factors beyond his control. Measuring a chairman’s success requires a careful examination of the areas a chairman controls, and comparing the party’s performance in those areas against the limits of what was otherwise possible.
First let’s review what a chairman doesn’t control. He (or she) does not pick the nominees – those are chosen by voters in primaries.
America’s political system is candidate-centric, not party centric. Commentators and journalists consistently gloss over the reality that the real decision-making power in any campaign lies with the candidates, who choose their own messages, staff, strategy, tactics and approaches to fundraising. If a candidate alienates key constituencies, fails to raise money effectively, chooses the wrong messages, or their mail lands after the polls close are all decisions made by candidates and campaigns, and it is they who need to be accountable.
And they are – when they lose, they’re out.
by Rick Montaine
Congratulations! You’re a Candidate. You’ve got a great platform, a speech, a suit, and now I’d like to help you get some great action photos, too.
Before You’re Introduced
In “campaign school”, you were taught many strategies to support your run for office including how to dress for success and that you need at least two introductory speakers before you are called upon to give your excellent well-prepared, prepped, and practiced –probably without a political photographer present-speech. The first speaker is often a local supporter, with whom hopefully everyone in the room is familiar. This speaker will give a passionate speech on why he or she thinks you are the best candidate for the position including a supportive history of your involvement in the community, and why everyone needs to remember to cast a vote for you on Election Day. The second speaker is the “attacker” of your opponent. This “attacker” educates the crowd on all the negatives about your opponent. Finally, it is your chance to step up to the front of the room as the third speaker. As the candidate, you are the sales guy or gal. The goal is to win over the hearts of those in attendance on your top three issues. Obviously, your speech is enthusiastic, positive, and uplifting, but probably left out some choreography which could potentially get you and the political photographer present a few great photos.
by Ron Nehring
We’ve all been forced to sit through them, like high school detention with a speaker: a poorly run panel discussion at a meeting, training or conference. Like everything else in life, there are many wrong ways, and a few right ways, to build a successful panel discussion that holds audience attention and actually contributes to accomplishing the event’s goals.
A panel discussion is an opportunity to bring together several different speakers on a common topic and provide the audience with the benefit of the interaction between the speakers. When Walt Mossberg brought together Bill Gates and Steve Jobs for a two-person “panel” at a 2007 conference, audience attention was driven by the interaction between the two technology leaders. Six years later, more the video of the event has been viewed more than 6 million times.
There are at least four keys to a successful panel discussion.
by Ron Nehring
News organizations are increasingly using Skype to conduct live, on-air interviews with guests. It’s a result of reduced newsroom budgets on the one hand, and the spread of high speed internet and more powerful computers to just about everyone.
Unfortunately, it looks like some guests being interviewed via Skype on their laptop have not bothered to watch themselves afterward. Too often, bad logistics makes the interview look cheesy and second rate.
It’s critical for guests to ensure the viewer is focused on what he or she is saying and not be distracted by the image on the screen. Here are eight tips to help you keep viewers focused on what you’re saying.
Ditch the headphones, this isn’t the subway. Those white Apple headphones with built in microphone might make you look cool, but on television they look ridiculous. Buy yourself a black Radio Shack clip on microphone for $32.99 and keep it in your laptop bag. Before your interview, connect it to your laptop’s microphone jack and run the wire so it can’t be seen, such as under your shirt or jacket. Clip it to a dark article of clothing (such as your jacket) so it’s less visible to viewers. No, don’t put this off. Here’s a link to the microphone. Shipping is free.
No one wants you looking down to them, so set your camera at eye level. Setting your laptop on your desk and tilting the screen up so it’s looking up your nose is about as helpful as wearing a sign that reads “amateur.” Set the laptop on a few books to raise it to your eye level. The screen (assuming the camera is mounted to it) should be at exactly 90 degrees to the desk.
by Ron Nehring
Communism may have been relegated to that “ash heap of history” Ronald Reagan described in his 1982 address to the British Parliament, but a new strain of “21st century socialism” as envisioned by former Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is on the march in Central and South America.
Fortunately, that march came to a halt ten days ago with the election of a new conservative President of Honduras.
For years, socialists south of our border have led a drive to move Central and South America to the radical left. In 2004, Venezuela under Hugo Chavez and Cuba under Fidel Castro founded the Bolivarian Alliance for the Americas (ALBA) as a new socialist club to serve as a counterweight to the United States in the region and strengthen socialist regimes in the member states. In the 9 years since its founding, it has grown to 9 members, all with socialist governments: Antigua/Barbuda, Bolivia, Cuba, Dominica, Ecuador, Nicaragua, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Venezuela. In addition, the group has three “observer” countries: Haiti, and the virulent anti-US regimes of Iran and Syria.
President Obama’s strategy is clear: focus on winning control of the House for Democrats so he can have the unified control of government he needs to write his legacy in his final two years, as he did in his first.
Republicans today hold a 17 seat House majority, and a review of how House races are shaping up suggests the President is unlikely to get his wish.
To return Nancy Pelosi to the Speaker’s Chair requires a switch of 17 seats in addition to Democrats holding every seat they now occupy, including several in California they barely took from the GOP in 2012. That’s an extraordinarily steep hill to climb.
by Ron Nehring
Political candidates and party officials rarely choose campaign themes purely out of philosophical interests. In the midst of a contested election, campaigns invest heavily in researching and testing messages to gain maximum advantage at the expense of the opposition.
The Democrats’ 2012 “war on women” theme used against Republicans was not chosen by accident or merely out of a desire to satisfy feminists in the Democrat Party leadership. It was a deliberate choice to maximize the Democrats’ advantage among women while exploiting a glaring vulnerability among Republicans, whose traditional support for life and religious liberty is often cast as “anti-women.”
Republican candidates and activists can complain about how this theme was “unfair,” but while our team was complaining, Barack Obama racked up the biggest gender advantage in Presidential contests going back at least to 1952. While Mitt Romney won among men by 8 points, Obama won among women by 12.
The “war on women” theme was rooted in Republican policy positions, and bound together House Republican opposition to Obamacare mandates that religious employers pay for contraception coverage, efforts to defund Planned Parenthood, and state-level efforts to restrict abortion. The “war on women” theme might not have made it much beyond the Beltway press but for a series of “unforced errors” committed by high profile Republican Senate candidates. Rep. Todd Akin (R) in his campaign to unseat unpopular incumbent Sen. Claire McCaskill (D) clumsily attempted to make the (false) argument that in the cases of rape, a woman can’t conceive. Attempting to describe cases of actual rape, Akin famously used the term “legitimate rape,” providing the kind of soundbite that campaign operatives dream their opponents will provide.
by Ron Nehring
Democrats have repeatedly crushed “self-funding” Republican candidates at the ballot box, making now a good time to ask why our party appears to go out of its way to run wealthy candidates who fund their own campaigns, and better understand how these candidates fare on Election Day.
It’s been said that the road to political oblivion is lined with the remains of self-funding candidates. President Steve Forbes, Governors Meg Whitman and Al Cheechi can each attest to how their wealth was insufficient to prevent Election Day wipeouts.
Why does our party seem to have such a bias in favor of rich candidates who can fund their own campaigns? I count four major factors at work.
by Ron Nehring
Voters cast ballots for people, not for lists of policy positions. While a candidate’s positions on individual issues are important, voters look for signs of how the a person would use the power of government after the election, if he or she wins.
A candidate’s personal narrative is as influential, if not more so, than their party affiliation or the nuances of their philosophy. Rudy Giuliani was elected Mayor not because his party or philosophy was closest to his fellow New Yorkers in that heavily Democratic city, but rather because his personal qualifications and narrative proved more compelling than those of his rivals. The same is true of leaders including Governors Chris Christie (NJ) and Susana Martinez (NM).
The person is important.
The kind of leader a candidate proves to be on the campaign trail can provide valuable insight to how he or she will govern. It is the candidate who ultimately sets the tone within a campaign, and sends important signals with their attitude, demeanor, whom they hire, and the kind of direction they are given.
by Ron Nehring
We are now heading into the fourth consecutive “change” election in 2014. In California, Republicans are hoping for more success than we experienced in 2010.
In that year, popular myth holds that the Republican “wave” washed across America, but stopped at the California border. For some reason, it was believed, we did something different that kept us from electing the same number of new Republicans as we did in other states.
But like so many myths, this one is wrong too.
It turns out that in 2010, in the six most populous Democratic states, we elected only one Republican statewide candidate: Mark Kirk was elected to the Senate in Illinois. Every other statewide Republican candidate in states such as New York, California, Massachusetts, Illinois, Connecticut, etc. lost. The 2010 Republican wave benefited the entire country – except in its most Democratic strongholds.
What puts California in this category?
Republicans in the state have struggled for years looking for an answer. Some believed redistricting reforms and abolishing party primaries would solve the problem. A decade ago, some believed a more “professional” state GOP that was driven by staff and elected officials in Sacramento would be the solution. These approaches have all tried to turn back the rising blue tide.
What’s the real source of the Republican Party’s problems in California?