Comparison Shopping for State Chairs - What the Challenger Offers
By Kevin Rex Heine, Section News
The core purpose behind challenging an incumbent elected official (whether in a primary campaign, a general campaign, or even an internal party contest) is twofold: first, to draw attention to the assertion that the status quo is unacceptable, and second, to offer solutions to the problems presented as cause for challenge. Regardless of any other factor, these two postulates must be firmly established ab initio, otherwise the challenge is pointless. A challenger who's perfectly comfortable with things as they are, save that he can run it better, is worthless if there's no actual vacancy to be filled. Similarly, a challenger who can point out in detail what's wrong with the way things are, but offers no practical solutions . . . infinitus est numerus stultorum.
However, in the case of the question that will be put to the Michigan Republican State Convention delegation about two weeks hence, we have a challenger to the state chairman who not only can honestly, frankly, and fairly point out what's wrong with the situation in which things are, but who also offers some fairly usable solutions to correct things so that the MIGOP can do more than just hold their ground in tight elections.
If you check under the tag, "Schostak Must Go," you'll find three articles already written by me that go into some detail as to where I think that the Schostak Administration blew it with regard to the 2012 election cycle. And while I could ping on him every day for the next two weeks without running out of source material (for the record, I'm just getting warmed up in that regard), I think that I should take advantage of an opportunity to discuss the take of Todd Courser on all of this. After all, he's the challenger in question.
Between the comparison piece posted on Core Principles (part 1) (part 2), his New Strategic Vision, and Todd's Ten Points to win in 2014, this is what I gather about Todd A. Courser's approach to correcting what's wrong with the Michigan Republican Party:
As I pointed out a little over two weeks ago, in November 2012 the MIGOP lost 11 of 13 statewide races (including all 10 statewide partisan races); the only ones they won were non-partisan judicial races with incumbent titles under their names. We even lost four of six county-wide races in Oakland County, including two incumbents, specifically including the County Clerk seat. As a statewide net, we won merely 38% of the partisan races on all levels of government in Michigan (federal, state, county, and municipal). If Mark Brewer has a shred of sense, he'll be using the flip side of those numbers as part of his "case for the defense" of his chair.
Whether it was $26 million or some other number, there is no denying large amounts of money were raised and spent in this last election cycle. But what are the results that that money delivered? We lost a lot of races here in Michigan, including a net loss of 4 seats in the State House (cutting our margin-of-majority in half), only barely retaining a rule-of-law majority on the state supreme court, failing to flip both our Electoral College delegation and our Class 1 U. S. Senate seat, and losing 62% of all partisan races in spite of having a candidate in every single one of them. Regardless of how much money was raised or spent, the bottom-line Election Day results were disappointing.
While claims vary on how much was raised by the party, it wasn't used efficiently. Some of the Vice Chairs were not resourced in the past two years and were not included in some strategy, management, or staff meetings. Currently the Michigan Republican Party uses a "shotgun" approach to reach voters. Millions of dollars were spent on media buys with a "one size fits all" weakness, television advertising that wasn't efficient or targeted. We don't tailor our message to specific voting blocs, talking about issues they believe in. We had no significant youth program and did not communicate on-campus. Todd's fond of relating a story about one college student he knows who received six contacts by Democrats, none by Republicans.
We did not compete in vast territories and among several constituencies. Current Republican Party strategic and operational policies willingly concede to Democrats over 95% of the Black vote, 71% of the Hispanic vote, 70% of the Jewish vote, 60% of Youth vote and Women's vote, and damn near every urban center. We barely compete for the Catholic and Evangelical votes. In Michigan, the end result of these policies is that there is a better than 90% chance that the state will vote Democrat in statewide elections, which means that we got really lucky in 2010. Consistently ceding huge territories and constituencies is political suicide for the party, and a clear road to ruin for the state and our country.
Traveling the state and visiting all but one of the Victory Centers, TAC saw first-hand the great things that were happening but also the significant flaws in strategy, tactics, and technology. Just how effective do you think it is to have a person sitting in a centralized phone bank, cold-calling voters halfway across the state to do voter identification or get out the vote? In 2012 we called our people several times, even after they voted, while not even attempting to compete for the center-left vote. In many victory centers volunteers were not sent out for anyone but the presidential nominee and occasionally one or two other major races. Down-ticket candidates were not included in literature distribution or allowed to participate on behalf of the national slate, just to get some name recognition.
By one estimate I'm familiar with, all the volunteers that RIS likes to claim credit for recruiting into the 2012 campaign contributed upward of 35,000+ total work-hours on the election effort, either making phone calls or knocking on doors. That volunteer effort was disrespected and squandered on Election Day, because the party relied on an untested technology to get out the vote . . . technology that epically failed to deliver. Worse, knowing that the technology had never been field-tested, the party had no proven back-up method in place to which they could switch over when the primary GOTV program crashed. Further, Genesee County and Wayne County didn't report until late on the day after the election; because we didn't have sufficient challengers in those counties (if we had challengers in those counties at all), those precincts could report however the democrats wanted them to report.
The party can raise millions of dollars and recruit tens of thousands of volunteers, but if they're being spent inefficiently, or employed unwisely, and aren't achieving what ought to be our goals, then they're being wasted. We are so darn far behind and the party leadership, particularly in Michigan, has failed to grasp what is happening to us. We do not have confidence that the existing statewide GOP leadership understands, let alone will make, the changes we need.
While there have been some recent improvements, Republicans still lag years behind Democrats in terms of strategy and technology. The money the party raises must be used efficiently. Failing to prepare for the next election cycle is preparing to fail, and in order to prepare effectively, the Republican Party needs both a paradigm shift and new leadership.
Unity and Principled Platform - We must re-brand the party around a clear vision, shared ideals, and a principled platform. We must package, articulate, and sell our principles in terms and places that resonate with more voters, present and future. We cannot concede vast territories and large voting constituencies. Capturing even a small portion of these voting blocs previously ignored by the party can bring about GOP victories for years to come.
Democrats have managed to cast themselves as the cool and hip party. We must work to combat that, not by moving to the left but by educating and defending the party's traditional values and roots. We need to make republican values relevant to every constituency by connecting those values to issues they care about, so they'll see the party in a new light. This will require a significant image change and education effort, integrated with a principled and conservative platform, to broaden and strengthen the party. In order to change public policy, we must first change public opinion.
Todd Courser will be a strong voice for uniting the party around shared principles, fiscal conservatism, and core social concerns. We won't all agree on everything but we can agree core principles. Principles such as limited government, personal responsibility, free markets, minimal taxation, and integrity over crony capitalism. We also should set reasonable party rules and stick to them, or we risk lacking credibility in our message. It's past time to fix the broken practice of ignoring large groups of voters, as well as large numbers of conservative men and women willing to volunteer their time, money, and efforts in obtaining winning results at the polls. Finally, Todd believes we should have a more open and transparent party, which includes a real audit of the books to address whether or not the party is spending money wisely.
Advanced Voter Identification - We must develop a radical new way of identifying voters. Democrats are already knocking on doors for the next election. They're at least one "generation" of grass roots development ahead of us, because they seek to understand what makes people tick, instead of just party preference and voting history. We need to understand what people care about, not just when they vote and who they vote for.
Currently the MIGOP relies on the RNC to populate the voter identification database. That's a usable starting point, but we need to take responsibility for our own information in cooperation with the RNC. We must work year-round (starting now) to identify voters through precinct delegate surveys, phone calls, consumer marketing data, and other advanced data collection methods (including social media). We need accurate and in-depth data about voters' specific concerns, practices, issues, and desires to identify not only voting habits but to discover specific passions, concerns, practices, issues, and desires.
We should obtain cooperation of other groups (such as right-to-life, local parties, congressional members, state legislature members, tea parties, etc.) to organize lists of their members in order to determine the voter preferences and key issues for as many households and persons as possible. Organize a team of grassroots organizers, data developers, and marketing experts to identify as many voters as possible. Our goal is to understand every household in Michigan - 100%!!!
As we get the information, we must develop a reliable database that includes:
Massive Grassroots Operation - Empower, equip, support, and develop the grassroots of the party. Talking to people is not empowering the grassroots, giving them the tools to win elections is. We need a chairman that will actively empower the local parties and grassroots. Todd Courser believes we need to give local leaders the tools, training, and resources to build the party from the grassroots. We need to partially decentralize the state party to financially support local parties and grassroots activists in developing a massive statewide grass roots program.
We must train and develop our grassroots leaders and organizations, starting by ensuring that all 4,873 precincts in Michigan are covered by trained, committed, and working delegates, supplemented by neighborhood "block captains" sharing the workload and developing neighborhood bonds. This will likely involve creating specific job tasks and positions for precinct delegates and block captains. It will also involve using financial resources to provide regular training sessions for precinct delegates on voter identification, policy advocacy, message development, and campaign activism. We'll use modern technology to help aid in training sessions (and not just at state committee or conventions).
We need to expand our poll challenging system, utilizing modern technology to have an effective strategy for challenging voter fraud and intimidation. We should expand the Secretary of State efforts by tracking obituaries, people moving in and out, and reviewing voter rolls to verify that fraud does not exist. This program can also help identify non-voters who might be supportive of the Republican cause. Every polling place should have a well trained poll challenger team, especially in areas where there have been significant instances of suspected voter fraud like Wayne and Genesee Counties. We must recruit, train, and equip volunteers toward this goal.
Courser's opponent boasts that he had the victory center network started up by April of 2012. What he fails to mention is that he'd originally promised to have the key centers opened by September of 2011. (Ron Weiser had the strategically critical Fix Michigan Centers staffed and operational by Labor Day of 2009.) Voter identification is important, to be sure, but 49 days out from both the primary and the general election days, voter ID efforts must transition to aggressive get-out-the-vote efforts. We must adequately fund the grass roots with an intensive effort for the next 18 months - through 14 June 2014 - and then prepare for get-out-the-vote, because by then we'll know where most of our votes need to come from.
If possible, we should invest the perhaps $50K to 250K per election cycle in each congressional district, even those not traditionally Republican, in pursuit of identifying every voter, recruiting committed delegates for every precinct, and staffing each polling location with a trained poll challenging team. In order to do this effectively, the money should be attached to a precise program with adequate controls to be sure the program is being followed, worked, and reported as designed. This will probably include opening up a Fix Michigan Victory Center in each congressional district, ideally by Memorial Weekend of this year, but certainly not later than Labor Day weekend.
We must make a massive effort to recruit key advocates in female, youth, ethnic, urban, and faith communities; and among single interest constituents. We must prudently invest resources where we can get the greatest return, and then follow up with the lessons we learned from the Freedom To Work movement (which was a four-year grassroots effort; the state party didn't get involved until the very end). We must specifically develop a strategy for reaching out to youth with messages that speak to their passions, and develop a solid and comprehensive next generation program on campuses across the state. We must also promote unity - and reach new and lost voting blocs - by including all demographic subgroups within the party who are willing to commit to our core principles.
We have an amazing number of fantastic Republican activists who worked their hearts out for the 2012 election. We also have thousands of tea party, liberty, Labor Freedom and other conservative activists who work largely independent of the Party structure. We must open the doors to them. Every dollar, hour, and mile a volunteer gives is a trust that it must not be wasted. In 2012 the Party did not take advantage of tens of thousands of hours because the GOTV program failed to deliver. The most elemental step of Todd Courser's grassroots development is to fully respect and revere volunteer efforts.
Strategy and technology - Develop a winning plan to turn our state "red" not just for the next election cycle, but for the future of our state. Currently the Michigan Republican Party conveys one broad message to all voters. The GOP is years behind and woefully inadequate in social media and constituent development. We need to present individualized messaging to give all voters a superior alternative to Democrats based on our identification and data collection.
Reaching out to forgotten voting blocs - African Americans, Hispanics, college students, and women. Find issues that resonate with these voting subgroups. Meet with them where they are and create coalitions based around specific issues like business owners who want lower taxes, parents who want choice in education, churchgoers who are pro-marriage, etc. We need to use these new coalitions to rebrand the GOP image on a personal level.
Mircrotargeting - If we have identified exactly what people are passionate about, we can then reach those people with a message that speaks to what they care about. Develop voter profiling models that will use all identification information to determine what messaging should be used for what type of voter. Continue reaching voters through social networking and internet advertising based on microtargeting.
Acquire/develop a vastly improved and reliable technology program; computer programs that are comprehensive to serve our needs, on-line presence and information gathering, positive presentation and motivation for the party's programs, personnel, legislation, and core principles
Social Media - Use social media for more than just messaging. Massive social media effort; mimic and improve on change.org and other left recruitment tools. Use social media and fish the internet to collect more issue information associated with individual voters. Deliver targeted issue specific messages to voters by using our advanced voter identification.
Prepare a compelling media campaign and funding as we approach the elections. Television advertising has its place, but targeted messaging through mail, phone, email, and social media is much more efficient and effective. Broadcast media advertising usually works best starting about seven weeks out from Election Day.
Fundraising and Spending Efficiently - It's interesting how the main defense of Schostak supporters is still, "We need the money." Why does everyone defending Bobby automatically assume that the big donors will abandon the party if a more conservative leader is elected? Are they implying that donors' money buys influence in current policy?
Last year the MIGOP benefitted from significant amounts of money from the RNC and the Presidential campaign. The numbers being tossed around include that influx of money, albeit much was specifically directed, and was not actually available to the MIGOP, nor in fact was it raised by the MIGOP. Donors may be disenchanted after investing tens of millions of dollars and seeing such mediocre results as we had in 2012. However, major donors invest in winning programs, and we believe that the clear and stimulating program TAC intends to implement will resonate with those donors.
The political operations and demands on the Chair under the massive strategy, tactics, and technology changes that will be necessary to make the MIGOP continuously competitive, will be an enormous amount of work. The Chair can't do that and alone raise the money rebuilding will take. We must build an efficient fundraising machine, which includes bringing back the position of Finance Vice-Chair and placing him in charge of the Fundraising Committee, specifically tasked with raising money for the party. Fundraising should not center on a Chairman or any one person. That is a tenuous and dangerous direction for the party to back into, as we have seen previously.
Todd Courser has a short list of persons with exhibited fund raising capability committed to his program, willing and able to provide the depth and breadth of a significant fund raising effort, willing and able to step into the Finance Vice-Chair role starting the day of the convention. We need redundancy and cannot depend on one person alone to get this job done. The party has been there before. One major fund raiser opined that a grassroots chair has no chance of going in to a major donor and coming out with a seven figure check. I agree with Todd's first response to this, which was, "Shame on you if you let any chair go in alone to see donors you have connections with."
Let's keep in mind that the goal is votes, not dollars. Money is but one of the vehicles essential to do that. Raising a ton of money and not spending it wisely misses the target and eventually dries up funds. We learned in the Labor Freedom movement (which was a four-year grassroots effort that the state party didn't get involved in until the very end) that committed volunteers can and will do a vast amount of work for a sustained period of time. What are 70,000 or 100,000 volunteer hours worth? The Labor Freedom effort also promises to de-fund Michigan unions of approximately $150 million a year, dwarfing the amount of money the GOP raised in the last election cycle. That was a highly successful grassroots-activist-led vision. I anticipate a similar effort for the MIGOP under new grassroots leadership.
From years in business Todd Courser has learned to accomplish a goal by bringing in talented people who are experts in their field. The party should have a person (Finance Vice-Chair) or persons (Fundraising Committee) specifically tasked with raising money. We must develop a plan for fundraising based on more than one person's personal connections. We should bring in fundraisers who are experts in their field, expand fundraising base by using online fundraising, and reach out to previous donors and get them excited about the new strategic vision for the party.
Todd Courser envisions the Co-Chair and Vice Chairs having the trust of the delegates to perform specific programs in their elected areas of responsibility. He believes a reasonable stipend would be acceptable in order to resource the fundamental responsibilities and expenses of these party officials (including the national committee persons), on the condition that they must be frugal and accountable with this trust. We must first adopt a program and define objectives, resources, and tasks needed; the various committees of the State Committee (wrapped around the roles of the relevant vice-chair) are expected to participate in this process and to give guidance. Republicans have concerns with "entitlements" and "golden parachutes" but will support fair compensation for proper functions well performed. We must adopt specific goals and tasks and set objectives that can be agreed to, implemented, and monitored. If the Vice Chairs are willing and able to perform the necessary work at fair compensation, then they should be given the first opportunity.
We also learned that costs of grassroots operations pale compared to large media programs. If we understood where our needed votes are and got them to the polls, we theoretically would need none of this expensive media. Mass media buys typically happen during the latter part of an election cycle. Courser's intention is to do some earlier limited media buys, maybe less expensive cable and social media, to help re-brand the party; but most of the media money will be needed in the last seven weeks of the campaign, with issue-centric advertising occurring during the last six months. In the Labor Freedom program certain large donors and business associations raised and spent money independently, to defeat Proposal 12-2 and pass Freedom to Work. Much of the money invested in the Supreme Court races last year was funded the same way.
The Democrats raised millions online in five dollar segments, drawing those donors into their vast grassroots operations. This small investment made them stake holders who went to work on their friends and overwhelmed the GOP. We need to do this as part of our party re-branding. We cannot be put into a position where a hand full of big donors yank our chains and dictate our policies, candidates, and party officials. We also believe a re-branded MIGOP, with a clear conservative vision, will attract resources from several major national sources, particularly as we defend Labor Freedom and our elected officials who supported it.
Todd Courser believes that the highest priority must be our programs of re-branding, in-reach to lost and new voters, and the grassroots development. This must start the day after the Convention. These programs plus core party functions should cost about one fourth of the money raised in the last election cycle. Then we have to bank money for media. If some of this has to be raised outside the confines of the state party, we remain confident it WILL be raised and the full burden is not, and should not be, upon one person (the Chair) to get this done.
Fro the past seven years or so the Democrats have steadily changed the game while we, the Republicans, remain bound to strategic, operational, and tactical campaigning philosophies that were relevant when Ronald Reagan and John Engler were on the ballot, but are wholly inadequate to the realities of 21st century. Since Obama ran in 2008 the Democrats have built a grassroots ground game though college students, social media, progressive web sites, and paid activists. These networks combined together to create an issue based list of targeted voters that they mobilized with a network of community organizers. The groups did not take time off after 2008, but rather kept building and organizing. In 2012 they smoked us, and are going to take their ground game to another level 2014. (Already, they're moving the Obama campaign to a new non-profit group called "Organizing for Action.") In order to win 2014 and take back the White House in 2016 we need to learn how to community organize.
We are on the verge of a major transformation in America and I fear for our children and future generations. Many Republicans feel this is our last chance. They will not be disrespected and keep coming back for more. We have no confidence that the existing statewide GOP leadership understands, let alone will make, the changes we need. In order to prepare to effectively compete and consistently win going forward, the Republican Party needs both a paradigm shift and leadership that "gets it" . . . which means that new leadership is necessary.
Comparison Shopping for State Chairs - What the Challenger Offers | 2 comments (2 topical, 0 hidden)
Comparison Shopping for State Chairs - What the Challenger Offers | 2 comments (2 topical, 0 hidden)