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Republicans Win by Running For Something
Democrats by Running Against

If John McCain loses this election, it will because, in large measure, he failed to promote a consistent conservative economic message.

You see in national elections, we Republicans are at a disadvantage to the Democrats.  They can get by with running against.  We have to run for something.

In 1974, Democrats increased their majorities in both Houses of Congress when voters overwhelmingly rejected Republican incumbents and candidates to punish then-recently disgraced former President Nixon’s party for Watergate.  In 1976, Jimmy Carter won by running for “a government as good as the people” which was really his slogan to capitalize on residual distrust of the GOP.

Four years later, to oust that incompetent executive, Ronald Reagan presented a plan for economic recovery.  It worked, both on the campaign trail and for the economy.

Fourteen years later, Republicans finally recaptured Congress by running on “The Contract with America,” “a detailed agenda for national renewal.“  Twelve years later, however when an majority of House Republican had lost sight of the principles undergirding that contract, Democrats ran against their corruption, regaining the majority with vague promises of making the 110th the “most ethical Congress in history.”

Two years later, Barack Obama is running for president promising change from “the last eight years,” his favorite expression in the second presidential debate this year which, as I noted before, he used more often than Sarah Palin used the word, “maverick.”  While change may seem a positive message, in many ways, it’s just a negative campaign tactic, signaling that he’s running against those last eight years.

He still hasn’t really spelled out what he means by change.

It just may work.  For the better part of the past thirty-odd years, Democrats have won by running against something while Republicans win when we run for something.

And the media accuse us of cynicism and negative campaigning.



  1. The two messages is a nutshell:

    McCain wants to change Washington.
    Obama wants to change America.

    If McCain could condense their differences that concisely, he wouldn’t be down 11 points.

    Comment by V the K — October 13, 2008 @ 10:08 am - October 13, 2008

  2. He isn’t. Obama’s lead is narrowing — and that’s in polls which all massively oversample Democrats. Reweight the polls for the stable percentages of parties that actually show up to the polls and vote, and McCain is either tied or ahead, depending on the poll.

    I can see how an Obama landslide might seem likely, if you live in California or Massachusetts. But neither is the US. There are McCain signs all over the country.

    McCain has been winning elections for a quarter of a century. He knows what he’s doing.

    Comment by rightwingprof — October 13, 2008 @ 10:23 am - October 13, 2008

  3. I’d say anyone running would be running against the last 8 years. The threat of terrorism existed long before 9/11. The economy is in a shambles, health care costs keep climbing…

    People have pointed to Washington and the White House.

    Comment by J — October 13, 2008 @ 12:20 pm - October 13, 2008

  4. Random thoughts:

    Here is McCain’s problem – he doesn’t seem to have an economic plan – he only has slogans. Example – “We need to run or government like a business”!!!

    Here is the problem with this slogan.

    Phil Graham, his first economic advisor ended up resigning because of “Foot In Mouth” disease. His other advisor is Carla Fiorina, and though I like her a lot, she was fired from the HP board, given a nice severance package, and can be painted as a failed, corrupt former CEO, a la Dick Cheney. Then Fiorina states in a press conference that neither McCain nor Palin could run a major corporation. How can you run on the concept of running the government like a company when your own economic advisor says your not qualified to do so? Ever wonder why you haven’t seen that much of her lately???

    What kind of business would the national government be modeled as? Government is highly unionized and those businesses with this burden are buckling under their own weight – see American auto manufacturers for example.

    The Republican party lost it’s desire to be the party of fiscal responsibility years ago. Newt had the concept in his grasp, but he was pushed aside to make room for the culture warriors. Social conservatism has pushed fiscal conservatism to a distant third or fourth tier concern. And though I love this blog, our partisan bickering over Obama’s past associations or his faith or his stance on social issues each outweigh fiscal discussions five to one.

    Even now, I’m listening to Rush mangle financial facts and figures about small businesses and taxes in order to discredit Obama’s fiscal plans instead of selling the benefits of McCain’s. It’s almost as if Rush knows McCain doesn’t have one.

    Got to go work now.

    Comment by sonicfrog — October 13, 2008 @ 12:57 pm - October 13, 2008

  5. I have to agree….a successful Presidential candidate is one that stands up for Americans by having a positive economic agenda and a strong national defense/national security agenda. Reagan and Bush II ran such presidential campaigns and won. Bush I, in my humble opinion, won on I will be more of, he was running against a fool, which always help.

    I keep saying this is 1976 redux and it is (running against the last 8 yrs of the GOP mess as did Jimmy Carter and now Obama) Carter had he would never lie to us and Nobama has he will bring hope, change (the change we will get is he will even strip our wallets of all change and all know the funny bills that don’t look like him)

    Karl Rove got it right (no pun intended) in stating that McCain must run on a positive economic agenda and tell us how dangerous Nobama is…when he did both of these things his poll numbers rose….and when he ran only the latter of a negative campain (and it is needed but must be coupled with a positive economic agenda), his poll numbers went down.

    Sarah Palin does a far better job of pushing a positive economic agenda then McCain does. I wish that McCain kept hitting on cut all taxes, spending freeze, cut government, energy independence and put more money in our pockets and freedom of choice in health insurance and then tell us about the socialist/Marxist “redistribute your wealth to a big Nobama Washington DC government)

    McCain has run a Jerry Ford campaign of the other guy is inexperienced..that won’t do it alone.

    One thing that we all can agree on is you win with this is why you should vote for me and you lose when you say you should vote against the other person.

    I feel that McCain should have stayed the course he had begun at the RNC Convention and he was making headway with energy independence, cut taxes, cut government budgets and economic independence of putting choice on health insurance, tax cuts to create more jobs etc and trust Americans to do that and not government.

    If I were McCain I would have said I am going to eliminate capital gains, not tax your
    401 K plans, that cutting corporate taxes to 15 per cent (be bold) and give tax credits for each job small business creates…

    add in we are going to create a Manhattan project for energy independence and to help American car companies and green energy for jobs, etc.

    The only silver lining I see is Sarah Palin….I am so hoping the GOP unites behind her for 2012 as they did Reagan in 1980. Palin is our optimistic future. She is the Reagan sunshine of positive agenda in economy and national security/national defense/energy independence and less government, more tax cuts we need.

    If by chance McCain wins, I hope it won’t hurt Palin becoming President in 2012 (I don’t think McCain will run more then one term)

    but with Nobama we will have a miserable economy so that will be horrible for our country and given how spinmeisters can spin anything I worry that just as it was said Clinton would be one term we could end up with 2 terms of Nobama.

    I was voting for McCain for a number of reasons..chief of which was I don’t want our country going by the way of Marxism and sadly we are sliding there too fast and faster with Nobama…but with Palin as VP, I have a stronger reason to vote for McCain….

    I only wish she were at the top of the ticket…but I am praying and hoping she will be elected President in 2012…..and I bet she adds Bobby Jindhal as her VP (he has to run for re election as Governor in November 2011 so that wouldn’t give him time to run for President in 2012..but he would be a great VP)

    as you can tell, I am already in my mind gearing up for 2012…my big concern is that Palin doesn’t get thrown under the proverbial pink bus and gets blamed for the loss should it occur.

    I hope she wins re election as Governor in 2010 and has a smart guru like a Karl Rove to guide her for 2012.

    I am wondering what happened to Steve Schmidt (I wonder if he is being muzzled by
    the other McCain insiders like Rick Wagner…who I think is a horrible campaign manager)

    Comment by Rocket — October 13, 2008 @ 1:06 pm - October 13, 2008

  6. You’re lying, of course, when you say that Obama hasn’t spelled out what his change entails (he’s referred to his tax cut about a billion times, the Democratic primaries were uncharacteristicly wonky in their dissection of his and Hillary’s health care plan and their differences, he’s covered his plans for both diplomacy and military action w/r/t terrorism, Bin Laden, etc., etc., etc.), but it’s good to hear you admit that McCain hasn’t done anything but try to stoke fear about his opponent.
    When people are losing their jobs, their homes, and their savings, McCain and Palin’s “Fear Talk Express” just isn’t working. The polls, based on the talking heads on TV and the more refined analyses online, show that not only aren’t the Ayers ads working – they’re simply driving McCain’s unfavorables up and driving undecideds and independents to Obama. I’ve never been so proud of my country.

    @2: You do know that the polls have changed the sampling of Rs and Ds because the number of people who report R and D have changed, right? That the number of people who claim to be D is higher than it’s been in decades and R lower than it’s been in decades? That the Republican brand is toxic right now? I’m sure you’ve seen a few things about this in the news…

    Comment by torrentprime — October 13, 2008 @ 1:36 pm - October 13, 2008

  7. “I keep saying this is 1976 redux”

    No, it is not. There will never be an election like 1976, because there will never be another Watergate. We have had scandals since, and will have plenty more, but none can do the damage to the nation that Watergate did. The minute Ford pardoned Nixon was when Carter got my vote.

    As for Obama’s “economic plan,” well, like I said, I lived through Carter once. I know what kind of damage it did. Obama’s is the same category, but worse.

    Comment by rightwingprof — October 13, 2008 @ 2:22 pm - October 13, 2008

  8. Rightwingprof…I lived through 1976 too and it is like 1976 in how the Democrats ran for President then and now….plus, if you read my post you would see (and most of my posts when I make reference to Nobama is that he will make Carternomics look heavenly)

    Carter ran against the corruption of the GOP and he will always be honest with us and have a clean government, etc. and Nobama is running the same way.

    Carter tied Ford to Nixon and Nobama ties McCain to Bush.

    it is very much like 1976..and in my humble opinion Ford did the right thing of pardoning Nixon. I also believe that Nixon did far greater good for this country then he is given credit for…Indeed, even Ralph Nader gives him credit for putting forth the first energy independence policy (which if we had followed it we wouldn’t be in the mess we are in now) and creating the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act, the EPA, pushed desegregation down South, but also pushed for more states rights, a lean federal budget, created detente, opened up China, created funding for cancer research, had the first welfare reform bill that ended up being adopted and passed under Clinton thanks to the GOP Congress, pushed for health care reform.

    But that’s another thread.

    My point is that with Nobama we will get Carter on steroids in foreign policy disasters (to me Nobama’s foreign policy is Carter’s mess..just the 2008 version) and the economic mess of Carter will be worse..

    I lived through it in high school and then college and the mess Carter created…..we will get that and far worse then we ever imagined. The Country was in a similar mood in 1976..throw the bums out and voted for Carter because he wasn’t an extension of Nixon/Ford..and I Obama is running against Bush/McCain in much the same way Carter did against Nixon/Ford.

    Comment by Rocket — October 13, 2008 @ 2:47 pm - October 13, 2008

  9. Ooops..indeed, Nobama doesn’t present a pro growth, pro American unless the freedoms of creating jobs by small business etc…..he is the socialist extreme and uses the same mush mouth rhetoric of I do respectfully disagree with you rightwing prof.

    Comment by Rocket — October 13, 2008 @ 2:49 pm - October 13, 2008

  10. You’re lying, of course, when you say that Obama hasn’t spelled out what his change entails

    To be fair, he did let it slip this weekend — when he stated publicly that he was going to take money away from any person or business that made over $250k annually and give it to those who don’t work.

    Comment by North Dallas Thirty — October 13, 2008 @ 3:46 pm - October 13, 2008

  11. ND30….very true and he kept talking about “redistribution”…..Marxism here we come.

    Comment by Rocket — October 13, 2008 @ 4:55 pm - October 13, 2008

  12. all that redistribution of our money into the government tax collector’s hands and we will never see it again… The Chosen One redistributes our lives toward hell…..

    Comment by Rocket — October 13, 2008 @ 4:56 pm - October 13, 2008

  13. #4: sonic, I was cringing today listening to Rush mangle the small business tax topic… he’s a smart guy but, once in a while, he wonders off into the woods.

    As far as the GOP’s economic message – I don’t think there’s a lot to do. The majority of people in this country don’t pay any significant amount of taxes (and both the Dems and Reps campaign on making the number of people who pay taxes smaller each year).

    Since most people don’t have much skin in the game and since most people’s understanding of Econ 101 is dreadful, the message of lower marginal rates, capital gains taxes, corporate tax rates, etc fall on deaf ears.

    All people want to know is what candidate O or M will do for them right now.

    The Dems are pros at the class-envy game.

    Comment by SoCalRobert — October 13, 2008 @ 10:41 pm - October 13, 2008

  14. This may sound odd, but part of me wants to raise taxes on everybody. As long as so many U.S. citizens are not paying taxes, they have no idea just how ginormous their government has become – too many in this country no longer have a stake in the cost of doing things, they are disconnected from the reality of just how much things cost.

    Comment by sonicfrog — October 14, 2008 @ 1:52 am - October 14, 2008

  15. Funny. I just read two posts above this one that contradict this post. But, it is just plain funny.

    Comment by jimmy — October 14, 2008 @ 2:37 am - October 14, 2008

  16. Rightwingprof…I lived through 1976 too

    I did too, but I was 3. 😉

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — October 14, 2008 @ 3:53 am - October 14, 2008

  17. You’re lying, of course, when you say that Obama hasn’t spelled out what his change entails (he’s referred to his tax cut about a billion times,

    Now, if he could just be honest about what it really means….

    But then, I suppose, if he were honest, a lot fewer people would be inclined to vote for him.

    Comment by ThatGayConservative — October 14, 2008 @ 4:21 am - October 14, 2008

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  19. ThatGayConservative…Lucky that you were 3 and not in your teen years as I was…it wa no fun to say the least and “Happy Days” were not here again, except on the television show and the President was Eisenhower..not Jimmy C.

    Comment by Rocket — October 14, 2008 @ 11:02 am - October 14, 2008

  20. I was 9 in 76. Jimmy Carter pissed me off because the cost of a candy bar went up from ¢10 to ¢50.! He put a tremendous burden on my finances. I actually had to start working to afford the things I wanted, but then I hated him even more, because 9 year olds were not allowed to get real jobs with real pay….

    Curse You Jimmy Carter!!!!!

    Comment by sonicfrog — October 14, 2008 @ 11:58 am - October 14, 2008

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