It Don’t Mean a Thing If It Ain’t Got That Swing

by Michael Walsh

The Romney campaign has conceded Florida, making the final score 332–206 and featuring a clean sweep of the battleground states, which by the time this massacre was over made the GOP look like Custer at the Little Bighorn. Neither Dick Morris’s characteristically wrong-headed optimism nor Karl Rove’s magic klipboard could prevent the Democrats from running the table of the “swing states” of Pennsylvania, Iowa, Ohio, Virginia, Colorado, Nevada, and even Scott Walker’s Wisconsin. A terrible showing.

So Jennifer Rubin makes a good point, among many, in her Washington Post blog today: 

No more 2004 Bush campaign veterans: What they know (polling, ad making) is wrong and what they don’t know (cable ad buying, new media) is too vast. A new crop of savvy, young campaign operatives who are culturally sophisticated and new media knowledgeable has to be groomed and culled so it can run a 21st century presidential campaign.

With all the yammering about What the GOP Must Do Now, this is perhaps the most important point. The old model of targeted ad buys, “swing state” obsession and technocratic mumbo-jumbo is dead. Most of the country hardly knew there was a presidential campaign going on, so narrow had the field become; I spent the past two months in California, Oklahoma, and Kansas, and saw a grand total of one Obama ad and zero Romney ads. Next time, let’s just let Ohio vote and abide by the results. It certainly would be quicker and cheaper, although it would cost the krack kampaign konsultants a fortune in lost media-buy fees.

I understand all the electoral-vote bean-counting, but when what should be a national election devolves to a handful of swing states, something else comes into play and that’s — you guessed it — the media narrative. Sure, it doesn’t matter in an Electoral College sense if you change some minds in states like California or New York or, on the other side, Texas, but everyone digests the MSM narrative no matter where they live, and if that narrative was able to help push Obama over the top in the states whose EC votes were up for grabs, then the media did its job by laying down a national template whose practical effects were felt in the swing states.

Which brings us back to the importance of a right-leaning media operation. Here’s Ms. Rubin’s take:

Media relations: The mainstream media is infuriating to conservatives, especially in presidential years in which they invariably block and tackle for the other side. That said, the party absolutely must develop communications teams and spokespeople who are TV savvy, message-sophisticated and, in a presidential operation, have the ear and authority of the candidate. Interacting in a professional way and providing information in response to reasonable requests is essential, rather than deciding to freeze out and glare at the mainstream media. Much of this is equally applicable to conservative media. If you can’t get through a half hour with Jon Stewart, provide information to soften the blow of a “New York Times” hit piece, quietly work with reporters and/or editors who have gotten a story wrong (follow up with new information, for example), be able to shift storylines in a flash based on breaking events or get your surrogates on the air, you’re not ready to be a communications adviser at the presidential level. If there are not such people in the stable of Republican press gurus, the GOP needs to set up a press school to prepare its professionals.

I buy that as far as it goes — it’s basically about the care and feeding of the MSM, and an understanding of the dangers conservative candidates face when they inadvertently wander into the beast’s lair (hello Todd Akin and Richard Mourdock!). But as I argued here yesterday:

The big GOP money should henceforth divert at least a tiny fraction of the dough it poured into Karl Rove’s useless American Crossroads super PAC and its ilk and establish its own, alternative media (not Fox News) that functions both as a sword and shield against the decaying, corrupt journalistic establishment. After all, the Republicans lost with the super PACS, and they can just as easily lose without them, and at a fraction of the cost. But they can’t win without a media operation that can neutralize the 15 to 20 points that MSM advocacy regularly contributes to the Democrats. The only way to beat the media is to replace the media — and if you don’t think the media won this election for Obama, you’re delusional.

The technocratic strategy of “the architect” that won two elections for Bush has reached its dead end in the 2012 swing-state wipeout. For what Tuesday proved is that such thinking may work on the tactical level, but is useless at the strategic level. In other words, if you change hearts and minds in the country as a whole, the swing states will follow. The Left has understood that for years, and this election proved it. The Right . . . let’s take a look at how one-legged Albanians voted in Volusia County in 1984.

Here endeth the lesson.