With the debates starting Wednesday and the conventions in the rear-view mirror, campaign season is upon us. Those of you who live in a swing state are going to see more of President Obama and Mitt Romney on their televisions in the next month than they see in their mirrors during their morning shave. Oh, the joy you people are in for.
But if this campaign has shown us anything it’s that neither campaign seems to have anyone with any talent for much more than conveying boring facts to a disinterested public in their ads.
Well, that’s not entirely true. The Obama camp also can lie like Jon Lovitz’s Saturday Night Live character, Tommy Flanagan, that Romney plans to raise taxes on the middle class by $2,000 and that he killed an Obama activist’s wife with cancer. But other than that, there’s not much about the president’s record in his ads. Can’t really blame him. It’s simply awful.
And Romney’s people aren’t much better. They aren’t lying about Obama’s record – God knows the truth is already almost too bad to believe – but they aren’t attacking it effectively either.
President Obama and his comrades are beating Romney with baseball bats and Mitt seems to be waiting for some nonexistent referee to come in and enforce the Marquis of Queensbury rules. This is a street fight, not a waltz. How you convey information is just as important as the information you convey.
I am a huge advocate of using Saul Alinsky’s tactics, mostly because they work. In his “Rules for Radicals,” Rule No.5 deals with the power of ridicule. Republicans and the Romney campaign need to – forgive the language—grow some balls and use them. A sense of humor wouldn’t hurt either.
That being said, and since I have an interest in my country not going broke and turning into Greece 2 Electric Boogaloo (Google it), I’m going to offer publicly and for free a few ideas for ads I think would be effective not only for the Romney campaign but any Republican running this year.
Good-timey Bossanova music plays, a Barack Obama look-alike we see only from behind walks down the street. He’s pointing and waiving like a cast member from the Jersey Shore walking through a club. It’s a bustling street, people walking, businesses open, life happening.
As Obama walks, he shakes hands with a man on the right of the screen. The man has a smile. Then Obama reaches his other hand into the man’s pocket, takes out a wad of money and tosses it to the left, into a trash can.
The voiceover says something like, “President Obama ran for president promising hope, promising to change Washington. Promising to make the economy better. Now he says he can’t change Washington.”
Obama walks up to a woman, takes the money out of her purse, tosses it in the other direction. Voiceover continues, “He said he wouldn’t hire lobbyists, then he hired (whatever the number is). He railed against crony capitalism, then gave billions of our tax dollars to his fundraisers.”
Obama walks up to a baby carriage, reaches in, pulls out money, throws it. Voiceover, “He promised to cut the deficit in half. He quadrupled it.”
“Unemployment is higher, trillion-dollar deficits are common, and we have a slew of new taxes on all Americans thanks to the government taking over your health care with Obamacare. Are you better off than you were four years ago?”
The Obama character walks out of frame as the camera swings around to look back down the street he just walked. The bossanova music slows down like a record player that has been turned off. The business are closed and boarded up, the street is a mess and desolate. Voiceover, “It’s time to really change Washington and bring hope back to America. Mitt Romney for President.”
The words can be changed to say anything, but the feel and visuals of the ad are what’s important. Several versions can be made with different messages about boondoggles such as Solyndra or any other scheme the president wasted our money on. People will remember it.
But only if it’s on TV. Republicans make good web videos that only people who’ve made up their minds and talking heads on TV see. A 2-minute video is great, but it’s not helpful. The only people whose choice hasn’t been etched in stone yet aren’t watching political ads on the Internet or avidly consuming cable news.
The scene opens with a man trying unsuccessfully to fix a dripping faucet. Voiceover: “When President Obama ran for office, he promised to fix the economy. His solution was more government.”
The man keeps trying to fix the faucet, but the faucet starts dripping faster. Voiceover: “As millions of American lost their jobs, President Obama’s solution was move government, more spending.”
The man tries again, and the faucet drips still faster. Voiceover: “As he racked up almost $6 trillion in new debt in just four years, the most by anyone in the history of the world, President Obama’s solution was more government, more spending.”
The man tries again, but now, the water is just pouring out. Voiceover: “Nothing President Obama has done has made anything better. Now he’s telling us what we need to do to fix the country is still more of the same. When something isn’t working you don’t do more of it and expect a different result. It’s time to send a message to the status quo…”
You get the idea. The possibilities of making the analogy to the definition of insanity as doing the same thing over and over but expecting a different result are endless.
All of this coupled with Romney challenging liberal assumptions in questions from reporters and debate moderators when they are unfair, a la Gingrich in the primary, will go a long way toward lighting the fire that’s needed to push his campaign over the hump.
The media isn’t playing fair. Romney needs to call them out for it. Not in a complaining way, but in a defiant one. Something like, “There are 25 million Americans un-or-underemployed and you’re asking about some tape?”
Or, “Our Ambassador in Libya has been murdered, and our embassies are under siege as the Middle East riots … and you’re asking me about the timing of my statement condemning the violence and standing up for American principles? Really? Was what I said wrong? No! Was what the White House said for two weeks wrong and did the people in the White House know it was wrong? Absolutely. But you want to talk about timing, so I’ll talk about timing. When Americans are being attacked by terrorists I will always take the side of the Americans. I will not spend my time looking for reasons why it was OK to attack our embassy, for scapegoats to blame, for distractions, for justifications for the attacks. And I will never apologize on behalf of our nation for the freedoms that are the key to our greatness.”
Romney also should answer as many questions in the debates as possible by telling the audience what President Obama will say first, then destroy it and give what he will do. That will leave the president with two choices – say what he was going to say anyway, what Romney already addressed and demolished, or ad-lib. President Obama off script is a far cry from President Obama on script. No debate moderator will knock him off his talking points. Romney must.
Something like, “President Obama will tell you I spent years outsourcing jobs, that I was a pioneer in the practice, even though every media outlet that’s looked at that has said it’s patently false. When my former company did the things he’s trying to blame on me it was long after I’d left. In fact, those things took place when a major fundraiser of his ran the company. Yet he still gladly took those donations…”
Or, “President Obama is probably going to tell you my tax plan will raise taxes on the middle class by $2000. This isn’t true. Every “fact check” organization out there has told him it isn’t true, so he knows it isn’t true. But that hasn’t stopped him from saying it every day on the campaign trail because he wants to scare you into thinking it is true.
But the real truth is I want to cut middle-class taxes, let people keep more of the money they earn, especially now when people are struggling and need it the most. He’s the one raising taxes on millions of middle class Americans through Obamacare. But you won’t see those taxes come out of your paycheck until after the election. But if he’s re-elected, you will see them be taken out. If I’m elected I will repeal that monstrosity, and you will not have more of your hard-earned money taken to feed the bureaucratic beast it created.”
Answers such as these will not leave the president with much room to work. They will put him on his heels – and not in a way that will turn off voters.
It’s go-time for the Romney campaign. There’s nothing I’ve suggested here that can’t be done with a smile and friendly tone, but the words and tactics could be devastating to the president. I hope someone who matters in the campaign sees this.
Either Mitt Romney wants to be president, or he doesn’t. Either he’s willing to do what is necessary to win, or he’s not. This week will be the first look at him for Americans who haven’t been paying attention. He has to show them a path out of this mire and a leader who can take us there. In other words, time to put up or shut up. Americans have been inundated with tens of millions of dollars worth of attack ads from Democrats attempting to define Mitt Romney. But for many people, this will be their first look at Romney, their first chance to find out what he’s really like. And, as the old slogan goes, you never get a second chance to make a first impression.
Derek Hunter is Washington, DC based writer, radio host and political strategist.