If conservatives are going to win in the 2010 midterm elections, they'll need to take a page from President Barack Obama's campaign playbook. He not be that great as a president, but no one can underestimate his ability to campaign, and if the 2008 presidential election showed conservatives anything, it was that traditional methods of campaigning aren't enough anymore. If they want to win in 2010, they'll need to find new and innovative ways of getting out their message. The steps below should serve as a rough framework for the conservative strategy heading into the 2010 midterm elections.
Time Required: January - November 2010
- Stick to Conservative Principles
In the last three decades, Republicans had two major victories and both were a direct result of conservative candidates sticking to conservative ideology. In 1980, Republicans were swept into office on the coattails of big-tent conservative Ronald Reagan, who captured the nation's attention in the wake of the disastrous Democratic presidency of Jimmy Carter. In 1994, conservative Republicans took control of congress by pledging to stay focused on building a strong national defense, limiting the size and scope of government and applying traditional moral values to their work.
- Tap Into Tea Party Movement
Since exploding on the political scene in 2009, the Tea Party Express has galvanized conservatives and disaffected Republicans all over the country and has proved to be a major grassroots movement. As of now, Tea Party members haven't formed an official party, so it would behoove conservative Republicans to use the frustration and anger Tea Partiers feel toward the present Democratically-controlled government as a force for change. They'll need to do it soon, however, because if they don't, expect Tea Party members to field their own candidates.
- Appeal to Conservative Youth
One of the biggest mistakes Republicans made in the 2008 presidential campaign was relying too heavily on seniors to generate enough votes to give them the victory. If that election proved anything, it was that more and more young voters are becoming politically active. Conservatives and conservative Republicans need to incorporate the conservative youth movement into their overall campaign structure, not only as voters but as volunteers as well. Younger supporters bring an infectious energy to a campaign and could provide a vital boost to candidates in the waning days of the campaign.
- Exploit the New Media
Traditionally, political candidates have relied on endorsements from newspaper and magazine editorials to establish their credibility. With voters turning away from newspapers in bigger and bigger numbers in the 21st century, however, candidates are finding it necessary to find new ways to convince the public of their worthiness of public office. Social networking on web sites like Facebook and Twitter are just the beginning. In 2010, conservatives will need to exploit mobile technology, as well. Endorsements are still important, but not from faceless editors no one knows.
- Find New Talent
In politics, it all starts and ends with the candidate. In recent years, conservatives have backed candidates who were respectable, but clearly past their prime. If the Sarah Palin phenomenon has proven anything, it's that conservatives need to get behind fresh, independently-minded candidates who may not have built-in prejudices working against them. While name recognition is important in political campaigns, strong candidates can develop public awareness through the use of new technology and innovative campaigning.
- Take the High Ground
Although Obama's popularity continued to decline steadily in 2009, public sentiment often turns on a dime and for unforeseen reasons. Thus, campaigning against the liberal agenda and sticking to the issues will be the most important part of the conservative strategy in 2010. For example, most Americans disapprove of the president's health care reform package and the highly partisan manner in which it was shoved through Congress. Conservatives would do well to focus on the shortcomings of the proposal rather than become mired in the same partisan rhetoric so distasteful to the American public.