I'm not going to get cocky; elections come in waves and 2010 is looking like a Republican year, but 2008 and 2006 were Democratic years and we have no idea what 2012 will bring. I want to make sure I'm ready, so I'm watching this year's Democratic campaigns in order to learn what to do when your party is out of favor and it's looking like my candidates are going to get crushed. In watching the races so far, it appears that there are two keys to winning when your party is out of favor: simplicity and deception.
Take this sign from Andrei Cherny for example. I mentioned yesterday that he conveniently left off any mention of the Democratic party and adopted a new logo. He also made up that ridiculous quote about being the taxpayer bulldog (Actually, he stole it from Dean Martin.) However, the really deceptive part is that the sign makes it look like he's the incumbent Treasurer. "Treasurer" is a title--like Congressman Mitchell, Senator Cheuvront or Governor Brewer. You don't see any signs that say "Governor Terry Goddard." (By the way, you never will.) Cherny's signs are the perfect hat trick--hide your party affiliation, make up a slogan that has no bearing on reality and lie when you can get away with it.
I've also mentioned this sign by a group of Democratic operatives who have made up a "Taxpayer's Association" and are urging you to vote "No" in order to "Protect the Constitution". This message attempts to fool voters by suggesting that the Conservative vote is the no vote. I could complain about these tactics, but I'd rather learn from them. So I have devised my own strategy to help candidates in 2012, just in case Republican ideals are out of style two years from now.
I've designed this sign for Russell Pearce as an example of my "Simple But Deceptive" theme. It's possible that two years from now, Pearce won't be satisfied to have the 60% of population who support SB 1070 as his base and he will want to have a broader appeal. I think that this sign will do the trick nicely.
Here's another example of the same technique. Senate President Bob Burns complains that during his decade as Chairman of the Powerful House and Senate Appropriations Committees, he was never able to slow the growth--much less cut--any state programs because they were all "For the Children." I'm sure that when Bob pointed out that the state had TWO Iceberg Lettuce Councils he was told that both of them were essential--for the Children. So, Bob, if you can't beat 'em, you might as well join them.
Another trick is to reinvent yourself, but leave enough of your old persona that people recognize you. This is a great trick and if done correctly allows you to be a completely different person after only a few years in office. Here is my technique to have Pinal County Sheriff Paul Babeu capitalize on his famous commercial while at the same time adopting the themes that will be popular in a Democratic cycle.
Prop. 302 is an excellent example of an Initiative where the truth should prevail but won't. Even liberals should concede that First Things First is poor public policy--it funds "over and above" programs while the state has to cut core programs. FTF has high administrative costs, is slow to fund programs and is funded by a regressive tax. More importantly, First Things First can't draw down federal dollars, so it is displacing state funds that have a 3 to 1 federal match. But you can't really put that into a commercial, so I have taken a page out of the Democratic operative's book and decided to simply lie.
Sometimes a simple slogan won't do it. Sure, Cherny can simply claim to be a "Taxpayer Bulldog," but that's because no one actually knows him. Next cycle when the Republicans are getting crushed and Ron Gould hires me to save his career, I'll have to reinvent him. I like this contemplative pose that invites you to wonder what he is thinking. No he's not just thinking about Revolution...He's thinking about a GREEN Revolution.
Of course some candidates refuse to be reinvented, and at that point you have to go all in. Former Green Beret Frank Antenori isn't going to let me reinvent him as a tree hugger, so I'm planning to go all in by showing you the REAL Frank Antenori.
Sometimes a candidate's weaknesses are so well known that you can't lie about them, or cover them up with simple slogans. That's when you need Political Jujitsu--you turn your candidate's weakness into a strength by actually magnifying it. So while liberal candidates can call themselves "progressive" or actually claim to be Conservatives and guys like Cherny can pretend that they are the incumbent Treasurer and somehow are "Taxpayer Bulldogs" it's going to be tough to make Governor Brewer out to be a smooth talking, erudite policy wonk. The solution is to turn a bug into a feature.
So there you have it...my strategy for dealing with the 2012 Republican meltdown. The Democrats have taught me well...you won't see "Republican" on any of our signs. We will re-invent our logos, create catchy, short and deceptive slogans, pretend to be incumbent Democrats and steal the winning party's themes.
Of course the candidates who practice the art of deception this year are still going to get crushed, so maybe I'll suggest to Republican candidates that they should just be honest. After all, the themes of limited government, fiscal sanity, personal responsibility and strong defense may resonate next cycle as well. And it's likely that European style socialism, Keynesian Economics, "stimulus" programs, Government Motors and Government Health care will still be unpopular.
Maybe 2012 won't be such a bad year after all...but if it's a meltdown, we'll be ready.