Jennifer Rubin @ The WaPo:
A presidential campaign is like developing a car. It has to be attractive and stylish on the outside so customers who know and care nothing about engines and fuel economy will be willing to be seen in it. It has to have a good GPS device so it doesn’t get lost ( i.e. a message). But it also needs an engine, the internal guts of a good party and campaign structure. This is the least appreciated aspect of presidential politics among pundits (who think solely in terms of message and ideological purity far too often) and, perhaps, the most important. The Obama campaign was firing on all cylinders; the Republican side was not.
What can be done going forward? I’ve got ten suggestions for tuning up the Republican presidential campaign engine:
1. 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 knowledgable has to be groomed and culled so it can run a 21st century presidential campaign.
2. Get out the vote: Clearly, in a time when rabid Republicans were pumped up the get-out-the-vote operation did not deliver enough available R’s and independents to the polls. Early voting, absentee voting, volunteer recruitment, small-donor development and the rest need to be modernized to compete with the Democratic machine.
3. Change the primary debates: No more 20-debate primary seasons. No more feeding frenzies in which liberal media figures drop scraps into the pool and insight bloodletting. A reasonable number of debates, and more important, non-confrontation forums in which candidates explain not only what they believe but also how they are going carry that message are needed. One of the more informative and useful events in the 2012 primary was the Palmetto, Fla., forum in which candidates appeared in succession. Yes, candidates need to be debate-savvy and prepared, but primary debates need to be constructive tools in culling the candidates, not the first round of Democratic oppo research. Oh, and if a candidate wants to participate in a GOP debate, he or she should be willing to endorse the eventual winner.
4. Change the primary line-up: Sorry, Iowa but your wacky caucus can’t be the start of the presidential race. Republicans need a better mix of early states which are more representative of the electorate as a whole. In addition to Florida, one or more of the critical general election swing states (Colorado, Virginia, Ohio) should be early in the process. Last time the proportional primary rules dragged the process out interminably, preventing a timely jump to the general election. The calendar and mix of winner-take-all and proportional races should be adjusted. Wherever possible, low turnout and unreliable caucuses should be dumped.
5. Do more than pay lip service to coalition outreach: The Republican Jewish Coalition (which has a wonderful operation tasked with the near impossible task of cultivating a stubbornly Democratic community) needs to be duplicated so that fundraising, candidate support and training, third party ad fundraising and the rest can make inroads among nonwhite voters. Luis Fortuno unfortunately lost his race for Puerto Rico governor, but he’d be the ideal person to begin an effective Hispanic coalition.