The GOP Has It Backwards
Recently, former Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney explained that he believed his loss was due, in part, to President Barack Obama’s bestowing “gifts” on segments of American society. He explained Obama’s gifts as:
- Obamacare’s provisions allowing children to stay on their parents’ health insurance plans through age 26
- A program that caps federal student loan payments at 10 percent of income and forgives any remaining debt after 20 years of consistent payments
- Temporary deportation exemptions granted to young illegal immigrants who meet certain requirements
- Requirement that most employers provide health insurance covering birth control
Of course, there are voters who made a decision based on these points. The question is whether there were enough voters in this category to truly put President Obama over the top. In my opinion from reviewing the data, this is not the reason that the Republican party lost the election.
Republicans stayed home due to Ron Paul’s wing of the party who would never embrace Mitt Romney as an alternative to Obama. Rather, they believed Romney to be the same as Obama — a belief which could not be further from reality. In addition, some Republican women either did not vote for president or stayed home altogether, unable to get past the remarks made by some GOP candidates that made the party appear to be anti-woman. Unfortunately, the Republicans allowed the liberals to run away with that meme, framing the Republicans as a bunch of old white guys wanting to cast women back to the 1950s. That was target marketing toward women, and it worked.
Interestingly, there seems to be a divide growing among the younger generations of Republican leadership. Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal recently said, “We have got to stop dividing the American voters. We need to go after 100 percent of the votes, not 53 percent. We need to go after every single vote. … So I absolutely reject [Romney's] notion, that description. I think it’s absolutely wrong.”
With all due respect to both distinguished gentlemen, they are both absolutely wrong.
The Republican Party prides itself on being the party of job creation — the GOP is supposedly pro-business, pro-capitalism and pro-growth. Why, then, are they anti-marketing? Any good business target-markets. This is how they communicate to their potential customers based on age, gender, income, experience, education, personality, buying habits and other criteria that are measured and studied by companies who make this their focus. If businesses do it in order to capture certain segments of the market, why wouldn’t the Republican Party do it to capture certain segments of the electorate?
The Democrat Party does this, and they do it brilliantly. They market to women in one way, Hispanics in another, men differently, and so on, shifting their message slightly to engage and interest the segment of the electorate (market) they wish to reach. Republicans frequently make fun of the Democrats for doing this, saying, why can’t we just be one America? We certainly are one America, but we are not all the same nor should we ever claim to be. Each person is unique, interesting, and different, and we celebrate this as Americans. We have always believed that America is where many people — who all have varying backgrounds, beliefs, thoughts, skills, talents, levels of intelligence, ideas and more — come together to work toward a common goal. However, that doesn’t mean that you forget your instincts, your religion, your family or your traditions. By marketing to those segments of the electorate, the Democrats were able to show whatever group of people with whom they were communicating that they care (we can argue whether they really do care), understand and would work for them. It is that target marketing that is so important to the manner in which we win votes.
When Rush Limbaugh says that if we reach out to women voters it means we have to become pro-abortion, he’s wrong. I am in no way suggesting that we give up our principles; however, I certainly am promoting that we communicate just like the successful business owners within the Republican Party — by micro-targeting segments of the population, and communicating based on the touch-points that are relevant to them. This is how you win clients, and, it’s how you win votes.
The Republican Party needs to look no further than its financiers – the men and women who funded Karl Rove have been brilliant in their business life, but seem to think that the same advertising and marketing principles should stop at the door of their company. The GOP has it backwards: rather than criticizing Democrats for target marketing and refusing to engage in it, the Republicans simply need to apply business principles to campaigning, and the war of ideas will be won.
In 2014, the Republicans have to stop thinking everyone is a carbon copy of the person next to them. We are all different, and by any means that people may be grouped for the purposes of marketing and communications, the Republicans must take advantage of that opportunity — as the Democrats have — or lose the communications battle, and the election.
In a future column, we will provide comparisons and contrasts with specific examples. by