How Senate Republicans Can Close the Sale

   < < Go Back

By Karl Rove,

from The Wall Street Journal,

Stick to emphasizing growth, a strong national defense, and reforms in health care and energy.

Thursday morning, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus is delivering a speech at George Washington University titled “Principles for American Renewal.”

The 11 Republican principles he will offer are timeless. They include “we should leave the next generation opportunity, not debt” and “our country should value the traditions of family, life, religious liberty and hard work.” The challenge for Republicans is to apply this thematic framework to current circumstances in a way that sways independent middle-class voters and mobilizes Republicans. To help this process, the RNC polled large numbers of independent and Republican voters in June and August, testing phrases drawn from speeches by officeholders and candidates on these issues. The goal was to help find the more effective ways to explain these principles.

The findings provide insights into how to talk about the economy, the budget and debt, national security and other issues. For example, the surveys suggest that the most powerful way for Republicans to begin any discussion of ObamaCare is to say that they believe “health-care decisions should be made by patients and their doctors, not Washington.” Simple, but helpful to know.

As useful as Mr. Priebus’s 11 principles and the suggested language are, they are offered with 33 days left for candidates to adopt, adapt and deploy them before Election Day.

The good news is that many Republican Senate candidates have worked hard this year to spell out a concrete agenda tailored to their states’ needs. The National Republican Senatorial Committee helped by robustly investing in candidate speech and debate training and by providing extensive access to policy experts and briefing materials. The candidates and the NRSC assumed that while linking Democratic candidates to President Obama was necessary, it wasn’t sufficient.

These Republicans knew by each offering an agenda of specific proposals, GOP candidates would help voters understand better their values and character. They would also show that they want to do something for America, not just obstruct for their party. Both are critical to winning swing voters who will decide whether Sen. Harry Reid remains majority leader.

The GOP is fortunate to have Senate contenders who are, almost to a person, fluent and comfortable talking about pro-growth policies like tax reform and regulatory relief, spending restraint to reduce the debt, health-care reforms to replace ObamaCare and energy policies like the Keystone XL pipeline. And with four combat veterans among them, they’re effectively making the case for a strong national defense.

The cumulative weight of their efforts has helped move public opinion toward the GOP. In the Sept. 7 Gallup Poll, Americans by a 49% to 40% margin said they felt Republicans would do a better job than Democrats of keeping the country prosperous.

Those perceptions are helping Republican chances.

Republicans have a month to close the sale. It won’t be easy, and because Democrats are desperate and loaded with cash, it won’t be pretty. The way for Republicans to extend their leads or move ahead in the final stretch is not to be cautious, timid or unclear.

More From The Wall Street Journal (subscription required):