Re-crafting the Republican message.


The near ubiquitous Frank Luntz has an excellent column on re-crafting the Republican message so as to resonate more with the American public in today’s Washington Post. It does not involve jettisoning core principles, it doesn’t denigrate or even rank the various constituencies within the party, preferring to address only how the message is delivered.

It resonated with me because, while I can usually be counted upon to vote Republican, my sister is even more so staunchly a Democrat voter. Yet, when I discuss various issues with her, we are only far apart on a few of them. She thinks government spends too much money also. But, she’s also convinced that Republicans don’t care about either poor people or the common man. She thinks she could pay a little more in taxes, but that much of her tax monies are already wasted. While I doubt that she’ll ever vote other than Democrat, my conversations with her have revealed to me just how important it is to choose wisely how political issues are phrased. Luntz does a good job in his article in describing the subtle differences that allow an issue to either resonate with, or turn off, a voter.

From the article:
House Republicans also need to humanize the issues they care about. Making a political argument about the size of the national debt connects intellectually, but invoking the personal responsibility of parents connects emotionally. The presidents who communicated in emotional terms — JFK, Reagan, Clinton and Obama — have been able to move public opinion to get what they wanted, while those who took a more intellectual approach — Carter and George H.W. Bush — were defeated by public opinion.
Instead of being the party of small businesses and job creators, House Republicans should become the party of hardworking taxpayers. After all, a small percentage of Americans think of themselves as job creators, but every American considers him or herself a hardworking taxpayer. It’s an even more powerful identity than the “middle class” the Democrats speak of so often. If the choice is between the party that fights for hardworking taxpayers and the party that fights for the middle class, Republicans win.

There is much more within it, well worth the reading:
Why Republicans should watch their language - The Washington Post


*Instead of being the party of small businesses and job creators, House Republicans should become the party of hardworking taxpayers. *

I liked that part.


I don’t see it. I have spent years hearing how politicians claim they are conservative in nature and once reelected back to the same democrat ideals.


Did you read the article? I ask because your comment has nothing to do with the topic. If you have something to say about the ideas expressed within the article, I’d love to hear them. When making those comments I’d appreciate it if you then didn’t just use them as nothing more than a jumping off point in returning to the comment above, which is a sentiment that has been expressed elsewhere, at length, and should remain elsewhere, presumably in a place of more relevance.


How about forgetting the strategy of magic focus group talking points altogether and become a Party that can be honestly identified as an alternative to the Socialist’s?

Just kidding, I know quite well that the Establishment GOP will never embrace a Constitutional Conservative agenda.

So yeah, just write a list of better sounding talking points and the next East Coast Liberal/Enviro-Nazi they nominate should sail right into the White House like a leaf on the wind.


I’ve been pulling my hair out trying to get the Republicans to communicate since President Bush (43) was elected, and sat back seemingly thinking that ‘good will win out’ without his actually coming out and stating his case. Ack! Like to drive me nuts.

So, in that regard, Luntz is correct; Republicans need to learn to communicate effectively.
However, this pretty well covers page two, and disturbed me:

Every time you hear a phrase like that, know that a polster crafted them…

While I understand that politicians need to choose their words carefully in order to resonate with voters, the last thing I want is “crafty.” And for someone who was trying to give advice to others on choosing proper terminology, Luntz blew it with that line.

Luntz and I parted ways here, also:

Republicans need to stop expressing a willingness to shut down the government if they don’t get their way on the debt ceiling. Americans don’t want a government shutdown — for any reason."

Uh…we don’t? I don’t recall the last time when Clinton forced a gov’t shut down hurting too badly. Do you?

However, here, along with other suggestions, is where Luntz and I would agree wholeheartedly:

Another way for congressional Republicans to gain an advantage is to reframe the questions being asked, because whoever controls the question determines the answer. Since his first election, Obama has been asking America, “Should the rich pay more?” Thanks to public disdain for lobbyists and tax loopholes available only to the wealthy, election exit polls put support for this notion at 60 percent. But change the question to “Should Washington take more?,” and the answer is a resounding no.
That’s the question Republicans need to ask, along with: Is Washington spending your hard-earned money efficiently and effectively? Are we in this mess because Washington takes too little of your money or because it wastes too much?
If the choice is between the party that fights for hardworking taxpayers and the party that fights for the middle class, Republicans win.

BINGO! Same message, but put forth with more appeal.

I also agree that when a person brings a possitive message, it’s far more widely accepted. Like the mom who chooses, “You CAN play on the floor” over “You canNOT play on the couch,” the Republicans need to take the same approach as Luntz suggested regarding food stamps. Not: “You’re not going to get anywhere depending on the government to feed you!” But instead, “You can go far if you work for it!” Same message, but one is more likely to get a possitive response.

I don’t agree with Luntz on the Hispanic issue or vote, but will leave that for another day.

All in all, I think all Republicans would agree that they desparately need to learn how to get their message out.
Agreeing on what the is, first off, would be a big help.


How about just setting up a platform and actually sticking to it.


You can “craft” the best, most well thought-out message of all time - complete with historical and current examples - but, unless you have an audience sufficiently competent to receive and analyze that message in a rational manner you might as well save your breath.

Here’s a couple of examples of the problem - For the most part, those states struggling the most are states with high taxes/run by Democrats. Those states without heavy tax burdens seem to attract businesses and the jobs that go with them. That information is no secret. Result: We reelect a fiscally failed, high tax/uber spend POTUS. Polls repeatedly document that most voters think the fed government spends too much money, with the rapidly growing debt a major concern. Result: same as above.

So, what message are you going to deliver/craft in order to combat that level of disconnect/stupidity?

My point: I agree - We could stand to sharpen the message, but the real problem lies with the recipients of the message. IMHO



How about forgetting the strategy of magic focus group talking points altogether and become a Party that can be honestly identified as an alternative to the Socialist’s?

Now there’s a thought!


Expecting to sufficiently educate the public, beyond where they are at, is likely an errand doomed to failure. I understand Mike’s frustration, but we’re forced to take the electorate largely as they exist.

Luntz’s thesis also resonated with me because I recalled not all that long ago when Democrats were losing elections and there was some question as to whether they were doomed to never holding the White House again. There was much moaning, wailing, and gnashing of teeth over it and the most common lament was that the American people hadn’t really heard their message, didn’t understand their message, and if they just had another chance to present it to them again…well, it’d be a sure thing they’d understand it then. A pundit, George Will perhaps, dryly observed that a more plausible explanation was that the American people had heard their message quite clearly…and rejected it in a plurality of states…repeatedly.

Unfortunately, for Republicans, on of the people who believed the latter explanation, over the former, was one James Carville…and the rest is history. Clinton’s success derives directly from his willingness to adopt, steal actually, Republican ideas and make them his own. No one questions the lack of depth Clinton held for those ideas, but that doesn’t change the fact that he co-opted them to great political success.

How bad was the last election? It was so bad that the Republican party, which is the party of the small businessman, became indelibly stamped as the party of the big businessmen. This should come as a surprise to Republicans, who find no more loyalty in big business than do Democrats. Republicans, instead of proclaiming the virtues of small businesses…which may not be all that more popular with Americans than big business…should have been campaigning against “crony capitalism” as it applies to all businesses. That would resonate with people. Republicans across the board, and the Romney nomination didn’t help…through no fault of Romney, didn’t do that. Perhaps the best example I can give is the Tea Party’s battle against Obamacare. For purposes of this argument we’ll assign the Tea Party “true believer” status in the field of fiscal rectitude, regardless of any facts to the contrary, few as they may be. Did you hear anyone from the Tea Party, let alone the Republican party, decrying the deal Big Pharma struck with Obama and the Dems in the crafting of Obamacare? Anyone hear anything about the deals the insurance industry struck? How about the AMA, which was cheek to jowl with the Obama administration on it?

Obamacare got a lot of support among people who liked the few features they knew about it. Kids on insurance until 26 yrs of age and pre-existing conditions covered…heck, you’ve got half the health care debate won right there. What’d the Tea Party and conservative Republicans claim? “Socialism!” Well, yes, that may be true…but it sure didn’t work for the party viewed as willing to cut or eliminate the biggest socialist programs in the US in SS and Medicare, which also happen to be more popular than the US Navy. Republican candidates didn’t refute the Democrat’s claims; they reinforced them. I guess that doesn’t matter if you’re one of those intellectual lightweights who think winning the election is less important than standing firmly on principle at all times but, if you want to change government, you’re going to have to win sometime, aren’t you?

And, the idea that principles are jettisoned for mere expediency couldn’t be further from the truth. Instead of calling Obamacare socialism, they’d have done far better in noting how it locked in Big Pharma corporate profits while providing not only discouragement for Big Pharma to do research and development, it offered them a subsidy not to do it. Similarly, they shouldn’t have attacked the auto industry bailout; for better or worse, it is indelibly identified with saving jobs. Republicans would have been better off attacking the corporate management that pump GM and Chrysler in bankruptcy, while offering testimonials such as the one Lee Iacocca gave…which they totally ignored…on how Detroit could and should be revitalized.

I think, regarding the government shutdown under Gingrich and Clinton, my memory may be superior to 2 cent’s. Republicans took a beating over the issue…and ended up owning it. It was a disaster and helped Clinton immeasurably.

Sorry, when people hear, “constitutional conservative” they think only one of two things: 1. Aren’t we all? 2. Nutcase fringer. The bottom line on that phrase is that it has probably reached the saturation point of those willing to wear it. The idea? The idea is great…though it wouldn’t hurt the holders of it to brush up on their constitutional theory before deploying the term. And it’s only one of many great ideas that Republicans have. But they have to be presented to the American public that resonates with that public, in a way remarkably similar to what Luntz presents, or we’re going to continue to lose national elections…right up to the national collapse.

There’s no profit to be made in accusing the American public of being addicted to welfare, even though they pretty much are. If Republicans are going to win elections, and change the course of history, they must do so be appealing to that competing narrative which references American’s propensity for hard work, their aspirations for leaving their children better off than their parents, and their strong sense of charity for the less fortunate among them. If it’s obvious you cannot insult them, it should be equally obvious that you cannot threaten them by proposing to remove all they’ve ever known and expected in how we treat the elderly. People say they want change, yet nothing upsets them more than the prospect of it. We’re going to have to craft, yup…craft, a message that presents change as a thoroughly natural and nonthreatening necessity. ‘Cause what we’re doin’ now, well, it ain’t workin’.


I do not think there is any hope in educating the public by “sharpening the message”. Finding the electorate as they are is what is so frustrating. Sadly, I think the learning curve - to the extent one is to exist - will necessarily include much economic pain for most people. When a conservative runs for office he/she is not just running against a Dem opponent, but the media and the long term results of our education system. And, if a Repub candidate is required to adopt the views and rhetoric of the Left, then there is no point in electing that candidate. Repubs must clarify their message - make it simple and direct - and make their points often. Yesterday, Obama gave a speech that suspended reality on the fiscal front/supposed cuts in spending he claims to have already made. Lies all. Have you seen/heard one of our best and brightest in front of the cameras challenging his claims point by point? Using Boehner or McConnell as the faces of the Repub Party isn’t going to cut it. Get Rubio or Ryan or Jindal out there - buy time on the networks for rebutal of Obama’s BS.

I agree with you, Sway. Challenging Obama by simply using a label, such as “socialism” as an explanation ain’t workin’!!


Republicans need to stop expressing a willingness to shut down the government if they don’t get their way on the debt ceiling. Americans don’t want a government shutdown — for any reason.

Luntz is right about this. After yesterday’s press conference, it seems clear that Obama is daring the House Republicans to shut down the government, so he can use the consequences as a bludgeon to flip the House Democratic in two years. The House’s stand should be made on the basis of the spending sequester, not the debt ceiling.




The Repubs are NOT going to rein in spending on Obama’s and Reid’s watch. Nor is there any possibility of meaningful tax reform. Not while the majority of voters perceive a benefit to a continuation of historic federal spending/debt levels. The Obama administration controls the message and the delivery of that message. Repubs would be better off simply voicing/explaining their opposition as well as reminding the electorate that despite warnings of fiscal disaster it was the electorate that returned Obama to power - and simply vote PRESENT.

Make the Dems own the economy - ALL OF IT!!


Smoke and mirrors do not cut it with me;action does. The current GOP mouths these conservative values then stabs everyone in the back once reelected.


I’m not sure how Jazz makes an argument on the sequester that isn’t better made on the debt limit itself. The argument should be simple; Mr President, you say we have an unsustainable debt and that we spend too much money, where would you like to cut spending?

Mr. Boehner said the Republican-controlled House would pass legislation cutting spending and increasing the debt limit, and would defy Mr. Obama and the Democratic-controlled Senate to reject the package. : The Senate Republican minority leader, Mitch McConnell, in his own statement, also demanded spending cuts for a debt-limit increase.

Fitch already has a negative outlook on the U.S. as the country’s debt burden has risen to around 100 percent of its gross domestic product, and has said it will make a decision on the rating this year, regardless of how the debt ceiling discussions pan out. The U.S. government reached its statutory debt limit of nearly $16.4 trillion at the end of 2012 but has engineered extraordinary measures that should see it through February.

With a March 4 deadline looming on extending a stopgap spending bill, both Republicans and Democrats are preparing for the possibility of a federal government shutdown. Interestingly, a new poll of political insiders reveals that Republicans overwhelmingly believe that a government shutdown is not in their interest. Democrats, by contrast, believe a government shutdown would benefit their party.

The reason? The great government shutdown of 1995-1996, in which a weakened President Bill Clinton faced off against determined Republicans, led by House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) – and won. Take a look at the classic New York Daily News cover from that period (above) as evidence of how the Republicans lost control of their message. The Republican Revolution died that day.

John Boehner, the current speaker, was the No. 4 Republican in the House leadership during Gingrich’s heyday. By many accounts, the experience of living through that shutdown has deeply affected him. Assuming Boehner can maintain control of his caucus, that alone makes it less likely a shutdown will happen this year.

“He can run the parts of the government that are left, or he can run no government,” Gingrich told Time magazine reporters six months before the first shutdown. “Which of the two of us do you think worries more about the government not showing up?”

That was the first mistake the Republicans made: They appeared to be too eager for a confrontation, while Clinton constantly emphasized he was willing to compromise within reason. Then Gingrich told reporters he stopped funding the government in part because Clinton made him exit from the rear of Air Force One when they returned from attending the funeral of slain Israeli leader Yitzhak Rabin. That comment just made Republicans appear petty.

In the end, after weeks of turmoil, the Republicans meekly gave up and eventually cut a deal with Clinton that was not much different than what they could have gotten before the shutdown.

Clinton used the episode as the springboard for his successful reelection campaign, and he humiliated Republicans for it during his 1996 State of the Union speech. He singled out for praise a man seated next to First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton – Social Security Administration worker Richard Dean, who had survived the Oklahoma City bombing and rescued three people from the devastated Murrah Federal Building.

As Republicans stood and applauded Dean’s heroism, Clinton pulled out the knife, recounting how Dean was forced out of his office during the first shutdown and had to work without pay in the second one. “Never, ever, shut the federal government down again,” the president scolded.

That’s why Republicans rightly fear a government shutdown.

The American people do not support raising the debt ceiling without reducing government spending at the same time. The consequences of failing to increase the debt ceiling are real, but so too are the consequences of allowing our spending problem to go unresolved.

Without meaningful action, the debt will continue to act as an anchor on our economy, costing American jobs and endangering our children’s future.

The House will do its job and pass responsible legislation that controls spending, meets our nation’s obligations and keeps the government running, and we will insist that the Democratic majority in Washington do the same.

The above was John Boehnor’s statement in response to the president’s news conference yesterday.

Republicans would be best served by harping on across the board spending cuts, even though such a policy cuts meat the same as fat. Here’s an interesting idea from the boys and girls over at National Review:
Republicans should recognize that the prospect of default is the Democrats’ chief weapon in their campaign of avoidance. That prospect is not a source of Republican leverage in the debt-ceiling fight; it is the primary source of the Democrats’ leverage. It is a way to distract the press and the public from the reality of our fiscal crisis.

The Democrats’ strategy offers Republicans an opportunity. Since the Democrats insist that the prospect of default is the reason they will not negotiate about spending restraint, Republicans should begin the debt-ceiling fight by permanently eliminating that prospect, turning the debt-ceiling debate into an argument about future spending rather than past borrowing.

The House should pass a bill to redefine the debt limit so that it constrains primary spending but not debt service. Under this reform, a Treasury that had hit the statutory borrowing limit could continue to borrow what it needed exclusively for paying interest on the national debt and to roll over existing debt obligations, but it could not borrow for any other government spending until the limit had been increased. This would take default entirely off the table.
The rest here:

The NRO editorial ends with the following paragraph. Note that it advocates for doing something not all the different from what Luntz proposes, “redefining” implying much the same thing as “re-crafting”.

What the public wants, and what the country needs, is for the federal government to pay its past debts but reduce its future ones. The debt ceiling should offer an opportunity for a debate about precisely how to do so. By carefully redefining the debt limit in law, Republicans can make sure that discussion takes place. And by then proceeding to offer specific spending cuts coupled with a proportional increase in the debt ceiling, they can help make sure that it ends with our country less in debt and better positioned to prosper.


That’s my preferred never gonna happen fall back position, Mike!


You’re correct, Sway - it will never happen. Neither will a real resolution of spending/debt under this regime. Shutting down the government will ultimately place Repubs further outside looking in. The public has made their calculation and have yet to pay the price necessary to signal to them that the government’s ability to support this BS is finite. Yes, most people voice opposition to running/expanding our federal debt level - until, that is, they learn it will be the government tit on which they suckle which will require some level of curtailment.


All we can do then is to re-craft the same message, hopefully in terms more amenable to the American public.

We shouldn’t be inordinately surprised at the necessity for doing so; it is far more difficult to be the adult saying no, than the uncle promising all.