Let me give a perfect example of what I mean and how, specifically, those who so oppose Obamacare and many policies of the Democrats could start countering the president’s “bully pulpit” and start to create messages that could be momentum-changers in the coming year.
In late 1993 and much of 1994, television ads featuring a couple known as “Harry and Louise” flooded the airwaves in opposition to then-President Clinton’s proposed version of health care reform. It was produced and funded by a health insurance industry lobby group. In the ads the couple lamented the “bureaucracy” and lack of flexibility in the Democrats’ then-proposed requirement for mandatory health care for employees through heavily regulated HMOs.
The ads cost some 24 million dollars and ran throughout the year, leading up to the 1994 elections. Taking nothing away from Newt Gingrich’s “Contract with America,” I think it is fair to say that even Newt gave great credit to the impact the “Harry and Louise” ads had in turning disgruntled and confused viewers into a surge of GOP voters. Gingrich himself was shocked to learn just how quickly the last few days of the 1994 campaign turned in the direction of a Republican majority in the House.
It’s ironic to consider that nearly twenty years later, in an age in which social media allegedly molds opinions and moves voters, that this old play from an old playbook is not being revisited.
Of course, we must be mindful that “Harry and Louise” themselves are likely of no value, since the two have resurfaced in numerous ads since then, including one in support of Obamacare.
But who says it has to be the same names or even on that one subject?
What Republicans lack is a counter to the endless dribble of pro-Democrat, or to be more specific, pro-Obama news stories which gloss over so many facts and issues.
It’s fine to debate on conservative-friendly networks and talk shows, but that’s really preaching to the choir. President Obama and the media are beating Republicans to the punch over every issue in the medium that they generally control — television.
Coming up with $20 million dollars in 1990 wasn’t likely easy, and matching that same sort of ad buy in 2013-14 would cost more and require more work. But for all the industry money wasted on silly messages that never have a meaning to the average public, such as the absurd “I’m an Energy Voter,” surely there is money out there to air real live messages that have a lasting punch.
Just for fun, here are, off the top of my head, a couple (insert your own video footage, I’ll just provide the voiceover):
On Obamacare/Class Warfare: “He says he cares about the struggling middle class, but when millions tried to sign up for his mandatory healthcare program or face fines through the IRS, his computer system failed, his phone lines didn’t work and few who wanted to could enroll. All the while, President Obama and the Democratic Congress ignored Republican pleas to delay the mandate on working Americans. ... While Obama exempted big corporations, handing them a free pass. ... Call your Congressman and U.S. Senator and tell them to join Republicans in telling President Obama to stop singling out working Americans and end the individual healthcare mandate.”
Or how about this little daddy?
On Hypocrisy: “President Obama promised transparency, but when asked why our ambassador and others were left to die at the hands of terrorists in Benghazi, Barack Obama and Democratic leaders blamed it all on a tragic reaction to a YouTube video. When asked why the IRS targeted conservative groups during his reelection Obama and Democrats blamed it on a handful of ‘rogue IRS agents in Cincinnati, Ohio.’ When asked how many enrolled in a botched online healthcare effort allegedly created to assist millions, the President simply muttered ‘thousands.’ YouTube videos? Rogue Agents in Cincinnati? ‘Thousands’? Now that’s transparency you can’t believe in.”
I’m sure those great D.C. consultants out there could do better, but you catch my drift. As for those who want to save the GOP, they better. Because press conferences and Facebook postings just aren’t cutting it.
Matt Towery heads the polling and political information firm InsiderAdvantage.